Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • Near Glarus
ca. 1780 - 1790
Pencil, watercolour, gum
  • image width 307mm,
  • image length 234mm
mounted by the artist
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “Near Glaris / Francis Towne”
  • in brown ink
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Sotheby's records (image)


Sold at Sotheby’s on 6 July 2010, lot 211, for £6,250 (incl fees). It was sold by American owners, in whose family it had been for many years (and certainly since December 1978). Probably this is the drawing that was with the Fine Art Society in London in 1939 and 1941. On 27 May 1939 they sold a “Near Glaris” to H. G. Paterson. “Near Glaris” is also recorded as having been sold on 11 November 1941 to M. Guerin (perhaps the French art historian of that name?). Various twentieth-century pencil inscriptions on the back of the mount may add weight to the suggestion that the Fine Art Society drawing is the one sold at Sotheby’s in 2010. One, “Mr Jamerac / 1 Saint[?] Oal / 1/3”, might be associated with the ownership by Guerin, since, though it is difficult to read, it has a somewhat French character. Other inscriptions include a dealer’s stock number “A11527” with a price in code, “HX/-/-”, and a rubbed-out price.

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Sotheby's, London, London, 6 July 2010, lot 211
[?] M. Guerin, 11 November 1941
[?] H. G. Paterson, 27 May 1939
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 100 or 108 as 'Near Glaris'
[?] Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1939, no. no.19 as 'Near Glaris verso s.i. as title'
[?] Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1941, no. no.4 as 'Near Glaris'


This is a view of the Glarus valley in Switzerland dating from the late 1780s or perhaps early 1790s, and based on a sketch (FT371a, now lost) that Towne must have made in early September 1781. According to a note on the backing, the American owners showed this drawing to Lord Eccles in December 1978, who confirmed the attribution to Towne. The attribution is beyond doubt, as it is a work typical of Towne’s finished style of the late 1780s, such as seen in the group of watercolours he made for the Acland family (for instance FT551 and FT553, dated 1788 and 1790). The inscription is also undoubtedly Towne’s hand. 

This sketch is unknown but the composition is broadly similar to two sketches made nearby, on 2 and 3 September (FT367, FT371), with the comparison especially close to FT367: both are upright views of mountain tops, strongly framed on one side by a tree in shade. It is impossible to say with confidence where Towne’s lost sketch for FT547 was placed within the large Swiss series. But as the entire numbered sequence of drawings between 21 and 29 survives—covering Towne’s journey into the Glarus valley and down to its southern end—we can speculate that the present drawing is based on one that was drawn afterwards, as Towne made his progress back up the valley towards Weesen on 3 or 4 September.

Towne exhibited two Glarus views at the 1805 Lower Brook Street show (100 and 108, both Near Glaris), and this may be one of them; the other is presumed to be lost (FT547a).

by Richard Stephens

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