Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman and Two Cows

Oil Painting
ca. 1781-1782 (painted)
Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman and Two Cows thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The following description of this oil painting appeared in 1824. 'A morning scene. The artist has evinced in this subject a fine feeling for the beauties of simple nature: the colours, depth and freedom of pencilling have never been surpassed in any of the works of this eminent landscape painter'.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
transparent oil on glass
Brief Description
Oil painting on glass, 'Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman and Two Cows', Thomas Gainsborough, ca. 1781-1782
Physical Description
This is catalogue no. 133 in John Hayes "The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough: A Critical Text and Catalogue Raisonne" (1982).



For a General Note on the series of transparencies and the display box, see "History 1", under "Historical Significance".

For Provenance see "History 1", under "Object History Note".



Notes from Hayes, cat. no. 133:

"The effect of light in the pool and the drooping heads of the cows emphasize the poetic, pastoral character of the scene. The dead tree-trunk is used as a compositional stress..."
Dimensions
  • Height: 27.9cm
  • Width: 33.7cm
Style
Credit line
Bequeathed by Ernest E. Cook through Art Fund
Object history
Hayes 1982, cat. no. 133, p.497



"Provenance: Purchased from Margaret Gainsborough (1752-1820) by Dr Thomas Monro (1759-1833); Monro sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833 ff., 3rd day (28 June), lot 168, bt W. White, who bequeathed it to G.W. Reid; anon. [Buck Reid] sale, Christie's, 29 March 1890, lot 132, bt in; Leopold Hirsch; Hirsch sale, Christie's, 11 May 1934, lot 104, bt Gooden and Fox for Ernest E. Cook; bequeathed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, through the National Art-Collections Fund, 1955."



Historical significance: General Note from Hayes, cat. no. 132, p. 497



Gainsborough was familiar with transparency painting, and had himself painted transparencies for the decoration of Bach and Abel's concert rooms in Hanover Square, London, opened in February 1775; but it seems to have been de Loutherbourg's Eidophusikon, first shown in February 1781, which inspired his own 'peep-show' for displaying his ideas for landscapes. Gainsborough's rather amateurish box [which is also in the V&A, museum number P.44-1955, illustrated in Hayes, pls 171, 172] consisted of a large storage space, containing twelve slats, to house his transparencies; a system of cords and pulleys to hoist the desired transparency into position; four slats behind this position, into anyone of which could be inserted a semi-transparent silk screen; and, at the back, five candle-holders. The spectator viewed the transparencies through a large round peep-hole, fitted with a magnifying lens, in the front of the box. The lens could be adjusted to between 25½ and 34½ inches of the projected transparency, thus producing an image with a magnification of between two-and-a-half and five times the size of the original, according to the length of adjustment. The light transmitted from the candles behind, albeit diffused through the silk screen, produced a luminosity close to that in nature impossible to achieve in oil painting on an opaque support. It is not known whether the transparencies were intended to be viewed with the painted surface facing the candle or the spectator; there is optical evidence to favour the former method, but this matter, and others connected with the box, require further investigation. Gainsborough must have painted numerous transparencies for showing in his box, but only ten survive [two further transparencies in the V&A, P.38-1955 and P.40-1955, were painted by another artist at a later date]. All ten are completely tonal in quality, executed in a range of blues, greens and browns, and Gainsborough's aim was clearly to heighten and dramatize his effects of light.
Subjects depicted
Summary
The following description of this oil painting appeared in 1824. 'A morning scene. The artist has evinced in this subject a fine feeling for the beauties of simple nature: the colours, depth and freedom of pencilling have never been surpassed in any of the works of this eminent landscape painter'.
Bibliographic References
  • See Sensation and Sensibility. Viewing Gainsborough's cottage door, ed. by A. Bermingham, 2005, pp. 23-24
  • Hayes, John. The landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough: a critical text and catalogue raisonné. London: Sotheby Publications, 1982, vol. 2, p. 497-498, cat. no. 133
Collection
Accession Number
P.35-1955

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record createdJuly 26, 2003
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