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Thomas Gainsborough, 1727–1788
Hilly Landscape with Figures Approaching a Bridge
Additional Title(s):

Wooded Landscape with Horseman and Bridge (also, A Hilly Landscape with Figures Approaching a Bridge)

A Hilly Landscape with Figures Approaching a Bridge
ca. 1763
Materials & Techniques:
Watercolor and gouache on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper, on contemporary mount
Sheet: 11 x 15 inches (27.9 x 38.1 cm)

Inscribed in pen and dark brown ink, verso, center: "Presented by Mr ["r" in superscript] Gainsborough to Doctor C[h]a[rl]ton at Bath | & purchased at the Doctors sale."

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Yale Art Gallery Collection, James W. and Mary C. Fosburgh Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
bridge (built work) | dog (animal) | figures | fishermen | horse (animal) | landscape | river | ruins | trees
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

Thomas Gainsborough is perhaps the most naturally gifted and fluent of all British draftsmen. He seldom produced drawings as finished, saleable works; and, though he did make drawings in preparation for paintings, mostly he drew just for the pleasure it gave him. That pleasure informs the character and quality of his draftsmanship. It was in the act of drawing and in the creation of landscape compositions that he found an escape from the onerous business of painting portraits.
In Gainsborough's landscapes an early naturalism rooted in the example of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting is succeeded by, but not wholly gives way to, a more abstract language of landscape forms, which not only recalls aspects of Claude's and Dughet's landscapes but echoes the composite method of Alexander Cozen (cat. 45) [B1975.4.1480]. Both A Hilly Landscape with Figures Approaching a Bridge [B1998.14.1] and A Woodland Pool with Rocks and Plants [B1975.4.1198] date from Gainsborough's period residence in Bath (1759-74). A Hilly Landscape with its flickering light effects and variety of touch embodies the developing Picturesque aesthetic. It also marks a movement away from the Dutch-inspired naturalism of his years in Suffolk to a more synthetic approach, in which his landscapes are constructed from a repertoire of recurring formal elements.
A Woodland Pool With Rocks and Plants demonstrates that Gainsborough had not wholly abandoned natural observation for the play of his fancy. Yet just how natural is this drawing? The Gainsborough scholar John Hayes has characterized the work as "a study from nature," yet we know from Gainsborough's friend Uvedale Price that he assembled in the studio "roots, stones and mosses, from which he formed, and then studied, foregrounds in miniature."
In the hands of theorists such as Price, the idea of the Picturesque was expanded from Gilpin's conception, based on the paintings of Claude, to include rustic and low life genre scenes. Gainsborough's own taste for idyllic scenes of rustic peasant life played a key role in Price's thinking. Wooded Landscape with Figures [B1977.14.4697], a drawing from the end of Gainsborough's life, together with the painting which he developed from it, Peasant Smoking at a Cottage Door (University of California at Los Angeles), represent the culmination and the most monumental statement of this line of imagery in Gainsborough's work.

Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 62 cat. no. 48

Sensation and Sensibility: Viewing Gainsborough's " Cottage Door " (The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 2006-02-11 - 2006-05-14) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Sensation and Sensibility: Viewing Gainsborough's " Cottage Door " (Yale Center for British Art, 2005-10-06 - 2005-12-31) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Gainsborough, 1727-1788, Grand Palais, 6 fâevrier-27 avril 1981. , Editions Réunion des Musées Nationaux, Paris, 1981, p. 186, no. 87, NJ18 G16 H393 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John T. Hayes, Gainsborough drawings, International Exhibitions Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1983, pp. 76-77, no. 28, NJ18 G16 H392 (YCBA) [YCBA]

John T. Hayes, The drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, New Haven London, 1971, vol. 1, p. 170; vol. 2, p. 357, no. 264, pl. 84, NJ18 G16 H39 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

John T. Hayes, Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Publishing, [S.l., 1980, p. 54, no. 15, NJ18 G16 H48 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 62, 64, no. 47, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Yale University Art Gallery, Paintings , drawings and sculpture collected by Yale alumni : an exhibition , May 19 - June 26, 1960, , New Haven, c. 1960, p. 168, no. 172, J418 N45F 1960 (LSF) See ORBIS for call numbers of additional copies available at LSF [ORBIS]

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