Exhibition catalogue text
Ann Sanders (dates unknown)
81 A View at Pines after Francis Towne 1778
Pen and sepia wash 275 x 387
(10 7/8 x 15 1/4)
Signed, lower right, Ann Sanders delt 1778
Prov: P.Opp?, purchased 1912; by descent to 1996 when acquired by Tate Gallery (T08575).
Lit: Opp? 1920, p.105.
Tate Gallery. Purchased with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
In the eighteenth century copying prints and, as the student progressed, drawings and watercolours was the basis of all teaching; to judge by most of his pupils' absolute fidelity to his mannerisms Towne must have been an exacting master. When a dinner guest invited with Towne to John Herman Merivale's table in 1806 had to be advised in advance not to dispute the painter's 'profound opinions and observations', some measure can be gained of the authority he must have exerted over his pupils. That he was a popular and sought-after teacher emerges both in the warmth of James White's letters to him and others surviving from his pupils (Paul Opp? Archive and Stevens 1996, p.502, nn.37, 40). He must also have been exceptionally hard-working to amass the ?10,000 reported by local gossip, whatever the frugality of his lifestyle (Farington, Diary, X, p.3795, entry for 11 November 1810).
Sanders is the earliest of Towne's pupils to be documented. Although it is often stated that Towne taught the two sons of Lord Clifford at Ugbrooke during the 1770s, the only drawing by either of them now known is a small black chalk study of Italian buildings very much in the style of Wilson. Most of the pupils' work which survives dates from around 1800 or later and bears the teacher's stamp, some in their use of the pen (as in no.84), others by the strong colour, especially the bright yellows and greens.
At the outset of his career as a drawing master Towne's method may have been more lenient, for here Ann Sanders has taken several liberties with her teacher's original. This was a drawing with monochrome wash inscribed 'A View at Pines, the seat of Sir Stafford Northcote Bart near Exeter' and dated 1778, also formerly in the Opp? Collection (T08527). The most conspicuous addition was the introduction of the shafts of light on the left. The traveller with the packhorse and the large tree stump on the right, which in providing more interest in the foreground give more depth to the composition as a whole, were also her invention. Her greatest departure was in the use of wash; each of the carefully copied tufts of foliage is more modelled, which also made the pen outline less intrusive. The result is more variegated, more developed pictorially than Towne's rather simplified original. In her scrupulous attention to the fall of light on different objects and surfaces Ann Sanders demonstrated rather more than simple mechanical ability; she has honoured her teacher in showing her grasp of one of the fundamental principles of Towne's art.
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1997, pp.155-6 no.81, reproduced p.155