Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A Study done at Canonteign
  • Canon-teign, Devonshire
Pencil, pen and ink, watercolour
  • image width 257mm,
  • image length 382mm
two sheets of paper
on two sheets of paper mounted by the artist (although detached from the drawing since 1972)
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne / delt 1803” and elsewhere “rock”
  • sheet, verso
  • “This outline drawn at Canon-teign Septrm.1803 from 2 till 4 light from the left hand Francis Towne.”
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “In Devonshire. A study done at Canon-teign on the spot by Francis Towne [“1803” erased]”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Museum records; Joll 2002 (image)


Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP246). In July 1929 Judith Merivale sold it to Sydney Kitson for £15. It was inherited by Elizabeth and Alice Barbara Kitson (see also 656), who donated it in May 1973 to the present owner, the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford (P.705).

Associated People & Organisations

Higgins Bedford, Bedford, May 1973, P.705
Alice Barbara Kitson
Elizabeth Kitson
Sydney Kitson, July 1929, GBP 15
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945), Oxford, May 1915, BP246
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928), Oxford, May 1915, BP246
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 1 or 2 as 'Canon-teign, Devonshire'
Catalogue of a collection of pictures, drawings, furniture and works of art of the Empire and Regency period : select examples of Romano-British art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1929, no. 20
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, pp.125-126
Evelyn Joll, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Watercolours and Drawings, Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery: Bedford, 2002, p. 265


Paul Oppé’s note reads:

246 Canonteign 1803 Tree trunks in light of dark backgrd of wood & rock & little dark blue sky. Rock written[?]. Summary pen outline, ink hatching. Very heavy shadows L over tones orange forgrd patch. Clear transition Rome thro cascades to Cotman who is visible here. Spot at Canonteign date erased at back. Heavy wet shadows are the chief novelty. Good pattern & light & shade. Trees awkwardly drawn.

The fact that the mount has been detached from this drawing provides an opportunity to compare Towne’s mount inscription with the wording on the verso of the drawing itself. Towne has not simply copied it, but removed detail such as the precise lighting conditions, date, and time and instead presented the scene as a more generalised view, “In Devonshire”. The drawing also provokes questions about Towne’s working habits, since he was content to sign and mount this drawing, which nevertheless seems unfinished. Perhaps he signed the drawing some time before applying any washes of watercolour; or perhaps he intended to complete the blank foreground but never did; or perhaps he was satisfied with the effect that the blank paper made as a bright foreground contrasting with the very dark woodland.

This sketch may have been made in company with John White Abbott, who was also sketching at Canonteign in September 1803 (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery).

by Richard Stephens

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