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Thomas Gainsborough RA, 1727–1788, British

Wooded Landscape with Figures

Additional Title(s):

A Wooded Landscape with Figures by a Pool

ca. 1788
Black chalk and stumping, with touches of white and red chalk, gray and brown wash, heightened with gouache on moderately thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 15 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches (39.4 x 31.8 cm)

Collector's mark, lower right: T.E. Lowinsky (Lugt Suppl. 2420a)

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
baby | branches | children | family | father | figures | genre subject | landscape | landscape | mother | pond | resting | trees | woods
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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. 64 ca. no 49

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]

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

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]

Gainsborough Drawings - International Exhibitions Foundation (Kimbell Art Museum, 1983-12-17 - 1984-02-19) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Gainsborough Drawings - International Exhibitions Foundation (National Gallery of Art, 1983-09-14 - 1983-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Thomas Gainsborough (Tate) (Musée du Louvre, 1981-02-07 - 1981-04-26) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Thomas Gainsborough (Tate) (Tate Britain, 1980-10-07 - 1981-01-04) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

English Landscape (Paul Mellon Collection) 1630-1850 (Yale Center for British Art, 1977-04-19 - 1977-07-17) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

John T. Hayes, Gainsborough drawings, International Exhibitions Foundation, Washington, D.C., 1983, pp. 192-94, no. 88, NJ18 G16 H392 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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