For this post, we will have a look at the traditional art of an independent and usually reclusive artist named Francis Towne.
In 1780-81, Towne went on the dangerous journey to the heart of the Ancient Empire of Rome and in doing so created some of the most beautiful watercolour paintings I’ve ever seen; using his incredible aptitude with a brush he brought out the elegance of the ruins of the old Empire and romanticized them poetically.
These stunning paintings of the Colosseum truly capture the beauty in the decay and ruin of one of the greatest architectural works of the Ancient world, the detail and the freshness with which it has been transcribed is very illustrative and highly appealing.
Another amazing thing about Towne’s work is that it informs us now of how much restoration work has been done on places like the Colosseum since the 18th century.
Working in a combination of ink line and wash, as well as watercolour paint creates an effect that seems to be the result of a magical form of alchemy; who really wants to turn iron into gold when this can be done with ink and watercolour.
Francis Towne’s ability to capture the world around him is evident in the work that he produced throughout his life, however it was his visit to Rome that truly brought out the best of his skill. Using his incredible vision and perfected craftsmanship he questioned how such a large and powerful Empire could simply fall apart and disappear, leaving behind just a ruined and weathered trace of the grandeur it once displayed proudly.
Towne’s work has inspired me greatly and I would like to incorporate his style of working with both ink and watercolour into my own work for my project, even if not for the final piece, I’ll definitely be happy to experiment and create a couple of studies in this style.
I hope you have enjoyed seeing the work of Francis Towne who created over 200 paintings on his trip to Italy and 54 views of Rome, bequeathing all of his work to the British Museum upon his death.