Doubtful Works

Richard Stephens

Problems of attribution are rare in Towne’s work. Most of what has appeared on the London art market since the 1920s has a common provenance in the Merivale family’s collection, and most of that was signed by Towne. Furthermore, as Towne did not command a wide following, his imitators were few and were chiefly confined to amateur pupils, whose limitations as artists stand in obvious contrast with Towne’s own work. Even so, there is potential for confusion among his more scarce work of the later 1780s, 1790s, and early 1800s, especially in his pure watercolours, of which few examples survive to provide a sound basis for making judgments. His direct involvement in much of his pupils’ work, in mounting, inscribing, and improving areas of the drawings themselves, blurs the boundaries of authorship and compromises somewhat the usefulness of even that body of work as a comparative tool. Better opportunities to study the few works presented here as doubtful would surely reduce their already modest number.

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  • Independent Art Historian


Article title
Doubtful Works
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "Doubtful Works", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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