Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727-1788)
Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727-1788)

A wooded landscape with sheep grazing by a winding track

Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. (1727-1788)
A wooded landscape with sheep grazing by a winding track
with inscription in ink by Esdaile '50x Gainsborough WE' (on the mount) and '1833 WE 50x Dr Munro's sale Gainsborough' (on the reverse of the mount)
black chalk, stump and watercolour, heightened with touches of white
11 x 14.7/8 in. (28 x 37.8 cm.)
in an English 18th-century gilded composite frame
Dr. Monro; Christie's London, 26-28 June and 1 July 1833, unidentified lot number (to Esdaile).
William Esdaile (L. 2617); Christie's London, 19-21 March 1838, unidentified lot number.
J.P. Heseltine; Sotheby's London, 29 May 1935, lot 411, illustrated (to Meatyard).
with Frost and Reed.
Anon. sale, Christie's London, 8 July 1986, lot 98 (21,600).
J.P. Heseltine, Original Drawings by British Painters in the Collection of J.P.H(eseltine), London, 1902, no. 18, illustrated.
M. Woodall, Gainsborough's Landscape Drawings, London, 1939, p. 70, no. 234.
J. Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, London, 1970, p. 257, no. 646.


This major work is one of Gainsborough's finest drawings of the 1780s. It is a rare example of the artist's use of colour in a late drawing, a technique he experimented with more in the 1770s.

Hayes dates the drawing to the mid to later 1780s and comments that the treatment of the foliage and the chalk and stump work are closely related to J. Hayes, no. 640 (Museum Boymans - Van Beuningen, Rotterdam E5).

Gainsborough drawings were experiments in composition and his diverse arrangements of trees, pools, sheep, tracks and cottages were endlessly rearranged to form lilting landscapes, something 'easy for the eye' as he called the effect in one letter. He used soft chalk, sometimes blurred to form tone with stump - a densely rolled piece of card or leather - which imitates wash. In the 1780s he used dense black chalk often very thickly which gives the drawings a power which had not been seen in his earlier work.

Unusual for this period, when most of Gainsborough's drawings were in monochrome, is the light application of watercolour washes.