Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Grasmere
ca. 1786/08
Pencil, pen and brown and grey inks, watercolour
  • image width 208mm,
  • image length 338mm
mounted by the artist
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Lake of Grasmere light from the / left hand from 12 till 2 o clock”
  • formerly(?), in pencil
Object Type

A View at Grasmere
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; 1992 Bankside catalogue (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughter Emily Harriet Buckingham (1853–1923) inherited the drawing in 1915 and on 24 May 1921 she sold it to Agnew’s (no.9956; probably for £62) for onward sale the same day (for £350 with FT072, FT074, FT086, FT108, FT111, FT237, FT260, FT366, FT469) to the present owner, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (Inv. 92'21).

Associated People & Organisations

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, 24 May 1921, GBP 350, Inv.92'21
Acquired with FT072, FT074, FT086, FT108, FT111, FT237, FT260, FT366, FT469
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 24 May 1921, no.9956
Emily Harriet Buckingham (1853 - 1923), 1915
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 77 as 'Grasmere'
Exhibition of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1921, no. 36
Catalogue of a collection of pictures, drawings, furniture and works of art of the Empire and Regency period : select examples of Romano-British art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1929
La Peinture anglaise, XVIII et XIX siecles, Musee du Louvre, 1938
Early British Watercolours, Empire Loan Exhibition Society, 1950, no. 19
unidentified exhibition, Fermoy Art Gallery, 1964
The Discovery of the Lake District, Dove Cottage, 1982, no. 136
The Discovery of the Lake District, Victoria & Albert Museum, 1984, no. 184
New York Public Library and tour, William Wordsworth and the Age of English Romanticism, New York Public Library and tour, 1987
British Watercolours from Birmingham, Tokyo and tour, 1991
British Watercolours from Birmingham, Bankside Gallery, 1992, no. 7
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, p. 121
City of Birmingham Art Gallery, Catalogue of the Permanent Collection of Paintings in Oil, Tempera, Water-Colour, etc.: Birmingham, 1930, p. 197
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 103, 135
Luke Herrmann, British Landscape Painting of the 18th Century, Faber: London, 1973, p. 78


This is a view of Grasmere from the road between Ambleside and Keswick, near Rydal. The pointy hill above the village of Grasmere is called Helm Crag. Towne has tried to minimise the impact of the small island by depicting it as a tip on the left edge of his view. Towne’s viewpoint is the same as Joseph Farington’s engraving, which became the standard view.1 The popularity of Farington’s work may help to explain the existence of two later versions by Towne, FT534 and FT644.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 B. T. Pouncey, after J. Farington, Grasmere, ca. 1785 (Wordsworth Trust).

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