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Netley Abbey, just outside Southampton, had ghostly associations that dated back to the seventeenth century. This meant it suited current taste for the ‘Gothic’ particularly well. Towne visited the Abbey in 1798, though this watercolour was created later and exhibited in 1809. Towne was conforming to contemporary taste by choosing this subject, though his technique remains closer to older traditions. Earlier artists had produced what were effectively coloured-in drawings, in contrast to the more textural use of watercolour seen in the work of younger artists like Girtin and Turner.

September 2004