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Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (Sudbury, Suffolk 1727-1788 London)
Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (Sudbury, Suffolk 1727-1788 London)

A wooded landscape with cattle at a watering place

Details
Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (Sudbury, Suffolk 1727-1788 London)
A wooded landscape with cattle at a watering place
pencil and coloured chalks and watercolour and oil with varnish
8½ x 12½ in. (21.1 x 31.2 cm.)
Provenance
Miss G.L. Young;
R.H. Young; Christie's, London, 11 June 1937, lot 52 (145 gns to Colnaghi) for J. Leslie Wright and by descent to the present owner.
Literature
M. Woodall, Gainsborough's Landscape Drawings, London, 1939, p. 36, no. 403.
J. Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1970, no. 345, pl. 284.
Exhibited
Birmingham, City Art Gallery, Early English Watercolours from the Collections of J. Leslie Wright and Walter Turner, April 1938, no. 92.
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Collection of Masters of British Watercolour (17th-19th Centuries); Exhibition of the J. Leslie Wright Collection, October-November, 1949, no. 91.
Aldeburgh, Aldeburgh Festival, 1949, no. 91. (according to a label on the backboard)
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Winter Exhibition: European Masters of the Eighteenth Century, 1954-55, no. 540.
London, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Gainsborough Drawings, 1960-61, no. 21.

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Hélène Rihal
Hélène Rihal

Lot Essay

Gainsborough's landscape compositions were rarely drawn from life, especially at this time; usually they were compositions of the imagination, assisted by the judicious use of models, made up from everyday items, such as coal, twigs, moss even vegetables. The majority, were painted in his leisure time as a form of relaxation and a foil to the more controlled and demanding tasks of his portrait practice. Indeed as his portrait practice grew, he had less and less time to produce landscape paintings and so his later landscape drawings, with their use of wash and chalk and even bodycolour and oil became replacement 'paintings'.

With some of these mixed media works, such as the present work he would apply oil directly to the drawings in order to give them something of the feeling and look of paintings. With others he would employ more extraordinary methods, which he recorded in a letter to his friend William Jackson. He told Jackson to carefully prepare a stretcher for the sheet so that the sheet is stretched taut and then build up the chalk drawing in layers and between each layer, dip the drawing in 'skim'd milk'. Once the drawing in chalk is finished, only then add the colour washes and then 'float it all over with Gum water, 3 ounces of Gum Arabic to a pint of water with ? Camels pencil? let that dry & varnish it 3 times with Spirit Varnishonly Mastic & Venice Turpentine is sufficient, then cut out your drawing but observe it must be Varnishd both sides to keep it flat trim it round with a Pen Knife and Ruler Swear now never to impart my secret to any one living' (ed. J. Hayes, The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, 2001, London, p. 110-1).

Henry Angelo described seeing him dipping sponges into saucers filled with colour and rapidly washing these over the surface of the paper, thus preparing the masses, or general contours and effects. He would then dry them by the fire, (for he was as impatient as a spoiled child waiting for a new toy), [before] he touched them into character with black, red and white chalks. (J. Hayes, p. 24).

Despite the fact that the majority of Gainsborough's landscapes are of his imagination, they do serve to demonstrate Gainsborough's innate understanding of the natural world. The time spent earlier on in his career exploring and recording nature, allowed him to conjure these memories and create landscape compositions prized by artists and collectors.

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