This latest free display at the British Museum focuses on Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome in the 18th century. 

The British Museum hosts a wide range of displays. 

Many of the watercolours that are on display at the British Museum by the British artist have not been seen together since 1805, making this a rare opportunity to see them side-by-side.

This group of pictures were created when Towne visited the city in 1780-1781 and include images of famous monuments such as the Colosseum, the Palatine hill and the Forum. Towne considered these watercolour to be a warning 18th-century Britain not to make the same mistakes as Ancient Rome did.

As well as being a rare opportunity to show these watercolours to the public, this latest display at the museum also marks the 200th anniversary since they were gifted to the British Museum.

The 52 watercolours played an important part in Towne’s career as well as the revival of his reputation in the 20th century – despite not being well known during his lifetime. This was in part down to the Victorians dismissing watercolours as being limited, yet by the 20th century they seemed exciting and refreshing to look at. The other problem was that Towne was never elected to the Royal Academy – on more than one occasion.

The aim of the exhibition is to highlight the ongoing fascination with Ancient Rome as well as the countryside that surrounded it, looking through an 18th century artist’s eyes, whose work is only now beginning to be appreciated and rediscovered.

Light, Time, Legacy: Francis Towne’s Watercolours of Rome is open to the public from today (21st January), running until the 14th August and is available to visit for free. For more information visit:,_time,_legacy.aspx