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Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)
Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)

A study of a tree blown down in Peamore Park, near Exeter

Francis Towne (Middlesex 1739-1816 London)
A study of a tree blown down in Peamore Park, near Exeter
signed and dated 'Fr. Towne delt./1778' (lower left) and inscribed 'In Peamore Park (on the verso of the original mount) and with inscription '178 B.P.' (verso in the hand of Paul Oppé)
pencil, pen and grey ink and watercolour, on a double sketchbook page, laid down onto the original mount
11 x 17 in. (28 x 43.2 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 in the family to
The Misses Maria Sophia and Judith Ann Merivale, by 1915, by whom sold to
Catherine Lambert, October 1932 (£25) and by descent to the present owners.
P. Oppé, 'Francis Towne Landscape Painter' Walpole Society, VIII, 1920, pp. 104-5.
H. Lemaitre, Le Paysage Anglais a l' Aquarelle 1760-1851, Paris, 1955, p. 148.
A. Bury, R.W.S., Francis Towne, Lone Star of Watercolour Painting, London, 1962, p. 118.
R. Stephens, A catalogue raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), online edition, no. 144.
London, 20 Lower Brook Street. Grosvenor Square, Exhibition of Original Drawings by Francis Towne, 1805, no. 10.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Watercolour Drawings by Francis Towne and John White Abbott, 1929-1930, no. 12.

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Iona Ballantyne
Iona Ballantyne

Lot Essay

Towne returned to sketch at Peamore Park repeatedly throughout his career. Its grounds and woods provided great scope for sketching. 'The chief beauty of Peamore lies in the undulating form of its grounds, rising and falling in alternations of hills and dales - in its woods, groves and trees - and in a Quarry which surrounded by a thicket of high towering Oaks, beech & ash is one of the most romantic objects in the county.’ wrote the Rev. John Swete, Picturesque sketches in Devon, 1789.

Peamore is about five miles south of Exeter, Devon. Jeffrey Tothill purchased it from the Crown in the mid 16th Century. His granddaughters were co-heiresses, and Johanna married Robert Northleigh (1582-1638). The estate descended in this family until circa 1810 when the amateur topographer Rev. John Swete noted that the estate had been sold to Samuel Kekewich, in whose family the estate remained until the 1950s.

The present drawing was chosen by Towne to be included in the only exhibition of his work held during his lifetime, at a gallery on Lower Brook Street in 1805. Very few of the drawings exhibited were framed and glazed, but Towne did mount his work. The present watercolour is still on its original mount with the exhibition number 10 in pencil on the reverse and pin holes in the corners where it would have been pinned up for display.

The subject matter of the fallen tree was popular in classical art, and the composition of Towne's drawing recalls the painting and detailed sketch by Richard Wilson of Ariccia: Fallen Tree, (both in the Collection of the Earl of Pembroke, Wilton House) depicting a blasted trunk arching across a stream, purchased by Henry, 10th Earl of Pembroke (d. 1794). It is tempting to think that Towne may have seen the painting.

We are grateful to Timothy Wilcox and Richard Stephens for their help with this catalogue entry.

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