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

Tristram and Fox

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

Tristram and Fox

black and white chalk and stump on paper prepared with pale wash, watermark AMSTERDAM
8 3/8 x 7 ¼ in. (21.3 x 18.5 cm.)
Probably among the drawings bequeathed by the artist to his wife Margaret.
Probably the artist's daughter Margaret, by whom given to
Henry Briggs, or via Sophie Lane, Gainsborough's niece, to Richard Lane; Christie's, London, 25 February 1831, lot number untraced.
H. Belsey, 'A Second Supplement to John Hayes's 'The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough'', Master Drawings, XLVI, 4, Winter 2008, p. 533, no. 1121.
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Lot Essay

Gainsborough's lively chalk sketch depicts the artist's two dogs, scruffy and lovable Tristram and the alert and nervous Fox. Drawings of this type are rare. Despite his love of dogs and the frequency with which they appear in his portraits, fewer than ten oil paintings and four drawings of dog portraits are recorded (J. Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1970, no. 872 and Belsey, op. cit., nos. 1119, 1120, 1121).

Fulcher in his Life of Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1856, describes Tristram ('Tris') as a spaniel. Fox, with his pert ears and foxy muzzle, was probably a Spitz dog or Pomeranian. The most famous images of the Pomeranian were painted by Gainsborough. In the portrait of Carl Friedrich Abel, 1777, in the Huntington Library, San Marino (Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London, 1958, no. 1) one such dog sits at Abel's feet, and Abel is thought to have commissioned at the same time A Pomeranian and her puppy, 1777, in the National Gallery, London (Waterhouse 821).

Richard James Lane (1800-1872) was the grandson of Gainsborough's sister Susan Gardiner. His lithograph of the present drawing is comparable with those made by Lane for Studies of figures by Gainsborough executed in exact imitation of the original, published by Charles Hullmandel in 1827 and dedicated to Sir Thomas Lawrence.

The majority of the original drawings for Lane's prints were traced by Dr John Hayes and over half are now in museum collections including: The British Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tate Britain, the National Portrait Gallery, London, The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the Pierpont Morgan Library, the Frick Collection in New York and the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin. Four of the drawings are lost.

Fulcher (op. cit.) records that Gainsborough spent long evenings at his wife's side making drawing after drawing and those he particularly liked he stored under a table. The present drawing, along with others copied by Lane, probably belongs to this group; they passed from the artist's daughter Margaret to both Richard Lane and Henry Briggs (the protector of Gainsborough's daughters) and the group was sold at Christie's with a property title that read: 'The following Drawings by Gainsborough were reserved by the late Miss Gainsborough as favourite studies of her Father, and descended from her to the present Proprietor'. The descriptions in the catalogue are not sufficiently detailed to supply a lot number for the present drawing. They included studies of Gainsborough's wife and children, studies for The Richmond Water-Walk and a portrait of Gainsborough's close friend the musician Carl Friedrich Abel, and one can see why Gainsborough prized them above others. The drawing can be dated to the 1760s.

We are grateful to Hugh Belsey for his help in preparing this catalogue entry.

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