Masters of Water-Colour Painting

The work of Francis Towne has only of recent years come to be appreciated. He belonged to a Devonshire family, but the exact place of his birth is not known. He became a friend of William Pars, A.R.A., from whom he received some instruction in drawing, and also went with him to Rome in 1780. Although he spent considerable time on the Continent, numerous drawings by him exist of scenes in his native country. On the Dart (Plate II) is a good example of his delicate method of painting. His special skill lay “in the management of even pen-line and in a subtle modulation of colour upon a flat surface.”

Amongst the early topographical men was Michael (Angelo) Rooker, A.R.A. The additional Christian name is said to have been given to him by Paul Sandby, under whom he studied for some time. He made pedestrian tours through England, and executed a large number of drawings, which are remarkable for their accuracy and delicate treatment, such as the Village Scene (Plate III).

Thomas Hearne was a contemporary with Rooker. It was a custom at this period for topographical artists to travel abroad with British Embassies to foreign countries and with Governors to Colonial possessions. Photography had not yet been invented, and the drawings by these artists were the only means by which the majority of inhabitants of this island were able to obtain some idea of places beyond the sea. Hearne went to the Leeward Isles, as draughtsman to the Governor, and produced records of the scenery there. Afterwards he executed a number of drawings in this country, some of which were engraved in “Antiquities of Great Britain.” View of Gloucester (Plate IV) is an example of his accurate drawing, though somewhat weak in colouring. Joseph Farington, R.A., received instruction in drawing from Wilson, and his paintings show slight evidence of it, as may be seen from the Scotch Landscape (Plate V), but he simply copied Nature without enduing his work with any of his master’s poetic reeling. Thomas Malton, Junr., was noted for the accuracy with which he drew architectural views, many of them being street scenes in London, and they are of considerable value as records. Old Palace Yard, Westminster (Plate VI) is interesting as showing buildings on the north side of Henry VII’s Chapel of the Abbey, which have long since been demolished. He published works aquatinted by himself, including Westminster, which appeared in 1792. He held classes at which Girtin and Turner attended. The latter used to say, “My early master was Tom Malton.” Edward Dayes was a versatile artist; he painted architectural subjects, into which he frequently introduced figures, such as Furness Abbey (Plate VII), executed miniatures and engraved in mezzotint. He also wrote several works on art.Buckingham House, St. James’s Park, in which a number of the beau monde are seen promenading in the park, is one of his best paintings. An engraving of it by F. D. Soiron, produced in 1793, under the title of Promenade in St. James’s Park, was very popular.

Francis Wheatley, R.A., was a topographical artist, but is better known as a painter of genre subjects, especially by the engravings after “The Cries of London.”Preparing for Market (Plate VIII) is a good example of his latter work, which was somewhat insipid.

The reputation of Thomas Rowlandson, who could paint landscapes with great ability, rests upon his caricatures, which were usually drawn in outline and tinted. He lived a somewhat dissipated life, and possessed an abundant sense of humour, as displayed in the Entrance to Vauxhall Gardens (Plate IX), the noted place of amusement and rendezvous of the fashionable set in the early part of the last century.