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

The falls of the Mothvaye, North Wales

Francis Towne (1739-1816)
The falls of the Mothvaye, North Wales
signed, numbered and dated 'No. 14/F. Towne delt/1777' (lower left) and further signed, inscribed, dated and numbered 'No. 14/A View of the Cataract of the Mothvaye/in Merionethshire North Wales/drawn on the spot/by/Francis Towne/1777/London/Leicester Square/June 20th 1777' and further indistinctly inscribed 'Mawdach Rhaiadr Mawdach ...' (on the reverse)
pencil, pen and black ink and watercolour, heightened with touches of bodycolour and with scratching out, on four joined sheets, on the original wash-line mount
12½ x 17 in. (31.8 x 43.2 cm.)
Wayland Wells Williams and by descent in the family to the present owner.
T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London, 1997, p. 43, fig. 14.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Prints and Drawings from New England Collections, not dated, no. 632.
Yale, Yale University Art Gallery, Prospects: An Exhibition of English Landscape watercolors from English and American Private Collections, 1950, no. 60, lent from the Wayland Wells Williams Collection by Mrs Elizabeth Williams Garstin.
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Sale room notice
We are grateful to Dr. Richard Stephens for providing the following additional information.

Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter
by bequest to John Herman Merivale, 1825 and by descent in the family to his grand daughter Emily Harriet Buckingham, 1915 and by decent to
her sister France Ann Laura Solly, 1923.
with Agnew's, London, May 1936,
from whom purchased Wayland Wells Williams, May 1936 and by descent to Mrs. Elizabeth Williams Garstin, by 1950
and by descent to Mrs. Cynthia Garstin Blackwell by 1962.

London, Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 46 as 'Cataract of the Mothvay'. London, Agnew's, Exhibition of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School, Feburary & March 1922, no. 120, lent by Emily Buckingham
Manchester, Agnew's, The 49th Exhibtion of Selected Watercolour Drawings by Artists of the Early English School In Aid of the Manchester Royal Infirmary, November & December 1922, no. 7.
Manchester, Agnew's, 'The Fiftieth Annual Exhibition of Selected Water Colour Drawings', November & December 1923, no. 22.

A. Bury's, Lone Star of Watercolour Painting, London, 1962, p. 151.

Catalogue Notes
Although Towne's inscription appears to suggest that the present watercolour was executed on 20 June 1777, it was actually executed between 5 and 7 July. Towne was then travelling from Dolgelly/Cadair Idris to Tan y Bwlch, and sketched all four waterfalls (the Cayne, the Mawddwy, Rhaeadr Ddu and Pont Ddu) along the way. Towne had only just begun his Welsh tour by 20 June, when he was at Bridgnorth Castle in Shropshire. Like many of Towne's works from the principal sketching tours, Towne would have returned and reworked this drawing later in his career.

Lot Essay

In June and July of 1777 Towne toured North Wales with his friend the lawyer James White. On his tour through Wales, Towne seemed to be drawn to the impressive natural spectacle of waterfalls. He visited those often frequented by the traveller, see loc.cit. for Pistyll-y-Rhaiadr (Yale Center for British Art) and Rhaiddr-Du (formerly in the collection of Michael Ingram), and less well-known sites, such as in the present watercolour.

Oppé writes of Towne's Welsh drawings 'with the Welsh drawings of 1777 Towne's water-colours proper begin. They form the first of the four large series of drawings ... which will constitute his claim to artistic recognition.' The Walpole Society, London, 1919-1920, VIII, p. 105.

The 'Leicester Square' part of the inscription does not relate to the date of the watercolour, but to where Towne mounted it. The group of mounts with these inscriptions were made in the early 1790s.

We are grateful to Timothy Wilcox for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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