Francis Towne (1739-1816)
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Francis Towne (1739-1816)

Town of Lugano, Switzerland seen from Paradiso with the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Church of Loreto, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Municipality, the Casa Airoldi, and the Gargantini Buildings

Details
Francis Towne (1739-1816)
Town of Lugano, Switzerland seen from Paradiso with the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, Church of Loreto, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Municipality, the Casa Airoldi, and the Gargantini Buildings
signed, inscribed, dated and numbered 'No.4/Town of Lugano on the Lake/Evening light from the left hand breaking/on the buildings morning from the right/August the 24th 1781.' (on the reverse) and with inscription '46 B.P.' (on the reverse, in the hand of Paul Oppé)
pen and brown ink, grey and brown wash, watermark 'C & I HONIG'
11¼ x 18 3/8 in. (28.6 x 46.6 cm.)
Provenance
J.H. Merivale, and by descent in the family.
Herbert Horne, by whom sold
Sir Edward Marsh.
with Spink, London, where purchased by Sir William A. Worsley, January 1947, £80 and by descent in the family.
Literature
A.P. Oppé,'Francis Towne, landscape painter' Walpole Society, vol. VIII, 1919-1920, p. 116.
A. Bury, Francis Towne Lone Star of Water-colour Painting, London, 1962, pp. 88, 142, illustrated pl. XXXV.
W.A. Worsley, Early English Water-Colours at Hovingham Hall, 1963, no. 52.
Exhibited
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1915, lent by Herbert Horne.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Watercolour Drawings by Francis Towne (1740-1816), 1929, no. 4.
Bucharest, British Drawings, 1935-36.
York, City of York Art Gallery, Watercolours of Francis Towne, January 1950, no. 20.
Leeds, Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, 1958, no. 95.
Lugano, Museo Cantonale d'Arte, Itinerari Sublimi, viaggi d'artisti tra il 1750 e il 1850, 1998, no. 239.
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis
Sale room notice
We are grateful to Richard Stephens for suggesting that the present watercolour was not in the collection of Herbert Horne or Edward Marsh, but remained in the collection of the Misses MErivale until sold in 1931.

Lot Essay

Towne travelled home from Rome with the artist John 'Warwick' Smith and by the time he came within sight of Lugano at the end of 24 August 1781, the evening light must have been fading. He was obviously enthusiastic to record this calm, spacious lakeside view, with the mountain tops catching the last of the daylight, and some stray gleams penetrating down to the buildings in the town itself. The inscription, which refers to both the evening and the morning light, is the only instance of its kind in Towne'’s entire output. It would certainly seem to imply that he worked on the drawing not only on the day of his arrival, but also the following morning. This is a vivid reminder of the practical issues facing the travelling artist, especially one as committed to recording specific configurations of light and shade as Towne. Almost the only other artist to have left evidence of such scrupulous attention in recording the entire timespan required to make a landscape drawing is Edward Lear (1812-88), for instance on a sketch entitled Bellaggio. Lago di Como and inscribed '26 May 1867 6-7 PM' and '27 May 10/11.30 AM' (Christie's, London, 8 June 1976, lot 138).

Towne made a replica in watercolour of the view of Lugano for Sir Francis Gentry in 1787 (Bury, op. cit. pl. XXXIVb). The evening effect is preserved, not in the deep shadows recorded in the sketch, but in a warm orange glow penetrating through the trees to the left, and in the yellow streaks in the sky beyond. A companion view of Como was painted with a cooler, morning light, demonstrating how Towne, for all the originality of his vision, was able to tailor the fruits of specific observation to the established conventions a landscape commission, pairing two contrasting images. The two works are now in the Museum of Art of Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I.
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