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Watercolour - The Source of the Arveiron, with Mont Blanc in the Background
  • The Source of the Arveiron, with Mont Blanc in the Background
    Towne, Francis, born 1739 - died 1816
  • Enlarge image

The Source of the Arveiron, with Mont Blanc in the Background

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    France (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1781 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Towne, Francis, born 1739 - died 1816 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour, pen and ink

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room WS, case Rack, shelf 81, box R

Francis Towne (1739-1816) began his artistic career as a coach painter. He later moved on to landscape painting. His watercolours are very simple but striking. He painted this watercolour in Switzerland, where he stayed on his return to England after a trip to Italy.

Physical description

View of the source of the River Arveyron in the Chamonix valley. In the background is the Aiguille de Bochard in the Mont Blanc range, and descending from the right and into the foreground is the southern end of the Mer de Glace glacier.

This drawing belongs to the remarkable series of studies of Alpine scenery. Towne banishes all 'picturesque' elements such as wayside shrines and bridges and his vision is of the greatest severity; his presentation austere. He achieves the expression of his fascination with the geometry of nature by the most economical of means, reducing everything to the simplest of terms and achieving a monumentality by his skilful arrangement of light and interreacting planes.

Place of Origin

France (probably, painted)


1781 (painted)


Towne, Francis, born 1739 - died 1816 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour, pen and ink

Marks and inscriptions

Signed and dated 1781.


Height: 42.5 cm, Width: 31.1 cm

Object history note

Bought from Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd, 43 Old Bond Street, London.

Descriptive line

Watercolour entitled 'The Source of the Arveiron, with Mont Blanc in the Background' by Francis Towne. British School, 1781.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Robert Hoozee, ed. British Vision. Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950 / with contributions from Mark Evans, Mark Haworth-Booth and Stephen Calloway. Ghent: Museum voor Schone Kunsten; Mercatorfonds, 2007. ISBN: 978 90 6153 749 6
100 Great Paintings in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: V&A, 1985, p.78
Carolina Brook and Valter Curzi, eds., Hogarth, Reynolds, Turner : British painting and the rise of modernity Milan : Skira, c2014. ISBN: 9788857222714.
P. 218
p.122, pl.115
British watercolours : 1750-1950 / Katherine Coombs. London: V&A Publications, 2012

Subjects depicted



Paintings; Topographical watercolours


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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