- Museum number
The lake of Nemi, formerly part of an album; view of lake surrounded by rocky hills, from wooded hill in foreground, village in distant l. 1781
Pen and black ink and grey wash, with watercolour
- Production date
Height: 396 millimetres
Width: 506 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- From album NN,03.1-17
See Nn,1.1 for information about the Towne albums as a whole.
T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater in the Alban Hills south of Rome, was a very popular motif for landscape painters. Thomas Jones, who in 1777 spent several weeks at Genzano, the town seen on the further side of the lake, noted its familiarity from his study of the works of his master Richard Wilson. He returned often, as lodgings could be had more cheaply than at Tivoli; one innkeeper there justified his higher prices by asserting that, unlike the French artists who frequented the place, the English were unwilling to sleep three or four to a bed (Jones 1951, p. 65).
Towne appears to have visited Lake Nemi only at the very end of his stay in Rome. The watercolour is not dated but was given the highest number of the entire sequence of Italian drawings, '64'. This drawing is executed on the heavy 'Roman' paper Towne preferred for outdoor sketching. The broad sweeps of the brush building up the foreground bank of trees give every impression of rapid, spontaneous application; the effect is similar to the studies of trees made near Rocca di Papa a few days before, but is here transferred from that essentially private location to this grand, carefully balanced composition. The drawing was evidently signed and inscribed into the wet wash at the same time as the foreground outlines were added, showing how the pen was integral to Towne's sketching style, as a final element in a continuous process. A thin strip of blue denotes the Mediterranean on the horizon, but Towne left the entire top half of the sheet blank rather than disrupt his essentially tonal vision with any further wash of colour.
The following label was written by Richard Stephens for the Towne exhibition in 2016:
Nemi is the smaller of the two lakes in the Alban Hills (the other being Lake Albano). As his inscription records, this watercolour was 'Mounted [in] June 1811'. It is drawn on the thickly woven paper that Towne had bought in Rome and, although Towne seems generally to have applied his washes in the studio having made an outline on the spot, here he probably applied the almost monochromatic washes on the spot too, if the finger prints visible along the bottom margin are an indication of the improvised circumstances of production. There are no later signs of development in this work.
The following label was written by Kim Sloan for Places of the Mind, 2017:
'In the early 1900s there was the beginning of a reaction against what some critics called the ‘blob’ and ‘swosh’ school of loose watercolour painting exemplified by artists like Brabazon. Ravilious and Nash turned instead to an older English watercolour tradition and admired the linear, tinted wash drawings of artists like Francis Towne. The elegant views of Italy he bequeathed to the British Museum had languished forgotten until their rediscovery by Paul Oppé and Laurence Binyon researching and writing their new histories of British art.'
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1982 BM P&D, 'Francis Towne and John 'Warwick Smith', no cat.
1988 Oct-Dec, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Travels in Italy, no. 68
1997 June-Sept, London, Tate Gallery, Francis Towne
2016, Jan-Aug, BM, 'Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne's watercolours of Rome' (no catalogue)
2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- T. Wilcox, Francis Towne, London 1997
Donated in accordance with the artist's wishes by James White and J. H.Merivale, 1818
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1972,U.644