Francis Towne (Isleworth 1739-1816 London)
Property sold by the descendants of J.H. Merivale
Francis Towne (Isleworth 1739-1816 London)

The Lake of Wyburn (Thirlmere), with Raven Crag to the left and Skiddaw beyond, Cumberland

Francis Towne (Isleworth 1739-1816 London)
The Lake of Wyburn (Thirlmere), with Raven Crag to the left and Skiddaw beyond, Cumberland
signed and dated 'F. Towne. delt/ 1786' (lower right), and inscribed 'No 35/ A View of the Lake of Wyburn with Raven Cragg on the left hand & Skiddaw in the Distance, Cumberland/ Drawn on the Spot by Francis Towne/ August 17th. 1786/ 4 OClock in the afternoon light from the/ Left hand' (verso of the original mount) and with further inscription '150 B.P.' (verso of the original mount)
pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolor, on two joined sheets of a sketchbook
6. 1/8 x 18. 1/2 in. (15.7 x 47.2 cm)
Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to
James White of Exeter (1744-1825) and by bequest to
John Herman Merivale (1779-1844) and by descent to his granddaughters
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), by whom given to her nephew
Alexander Merivale (b.1901) and by descent to the present owner.
T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London, 1997, p. 119.
R. Stephens, A catalogue raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), online edition, no. FT491.
London, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, [?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, 1805, no. 85 as 'Lake of Wyburn in Cumberland'.

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Lot Essay

Inspired perhaps by the recent publication of William Gilpin’s 'picturesque tour’ of the Lake District (Observations, relative chiefly to picturesque beauty, made in the year 1772, on several parts of England; particularly the mountains, and lakes of Cumberland, and Westmoreland) and its encouragement to artists and tourists, James White, Towne’s executor and lifelong friend, wrote to Towne on 8 July 1786 to inform him that their plan for a 'Northern Expedition’ with John Merivale, another lawyer and friend, was now fixed. He continued that 'we both heartily wish to have you for a companion’. White proposed that he and Merivale should meet Towne in Manchester and then 'to pursue our adventures either in diligences on horseback or on Foot, just as we find agreeable’. The Lakes were by this date famous for their sublime landscapes, and popular with artists and tourists alike – Thomas Gainsborough had visited in 1783, and between 1784 and 1787 Philip James de Loutherbourg showed twenty-one Lake District or Derbyshire views at the Royal Academy. According to the dates on Towne’s drawings, the party had reached Ambleside by 7 August and remained in the area until 25 August, making trips and exploring the area.
In this relatively brief trip, Towne executed at least a hundred drawings. 17 August was one of his busiest days in the Lakes – he made seven drawings, each with the time noted on the verso, and tracking his journey from Ambleside, on the shore of Windermere, where he had stayed on the night of the 16th, towards Keswick and the northern Lakes, through St John’s in the Vale. These drawings, numbered ‘30’ to ‘36’, are timed from half past ten in the morning to 5pm, and move around the Vale of St John, depicting various parts of Wyburn lake and its surroundings.
The majority of Towne’s Lake District views were drawn and worked up on the spot, as he continued to use the working methods he had earlier developed in Italy. The integrity of Towne’s artistic vision is clearly seen in his Lake District sketches: the immediacy of the sketchbook page and the possibility it offered him to capture the immediate effect of the view upon the artist is seen with great effect in the present watercolor. The sketchbooks used on this tour provide a great variety of formats; vertical, horizontal, single, double pages or panoramic views and there is an almost complete lack of later repetition of compositions, perhaps displaying Towne’s respect for his initial response to his original inspiration and his unwillingness to compromise his artistic vision.

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