NEWSTATESMAN (August 26, 2020) – Towne (1739-1816) was born on the fringes of London and apprenticed to a coach painter, a skill that demanded the type of precise brushwork that was to become evident in all his later work. He went on to study at William Hogarth’s St Martin’s Lane Academy, Britain’s foremost school of art prior to the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768. By a quirk of geography, the greatest British landscapist and fellow chronicler of the Lake District, JMW Turner, would be born just 100 yards away in 1775.
In 1780 he made a lengthy drawing trip to the Continent but it wasn’t until 1786 that he visited the Lake District. He proved indefatigable, making 100 drawings and watercolours over the course of two weeks: he often put brief details on the back of his work (“½ past 7 O clock/The sky a Clear warm light/mountains a solemn purple tint/the Lake reflecting the sky, the/Sun in the picture”) and so we know that on 17 August alone, for example, he made seven drawings.