Francis Towne was an English painter who began to paint in oils at the age of 14. In the late 1750s he returned to Exeter and set up as a drawing-master where he became firmly established as a painter of landscapes and country houses. In autumn 1780 Towne travelled to Rome via Geneva; the clarity of his watercolour style was especially suited to depictions of Roman architecture. He moved to London, marrying Jeannette Hilligsberg, a dancer, but she died the following year. In 1809 he toured Devon and Cornwall. Towne created a powerful and idiosyncratic style but, as a Devon-based painter, had little influence on the London artistic mainstream and was largely forgotten until the 1930s, when his spare, geometric work was hailed as revolutionary for its time.
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