Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Oil painting - Coastal Scene with Sailing and Rowing Boats and Figures on the Shore
  • Coastal Scene with Sailing and Rowing Boats and Figures on the Shore
    Thomas Gainsborough, born 1727 - died 1788
  • Enlarge image

Coastal Scene with Sailing and Rowing Boats and Figures on the Shore

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1783 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Thomas Gainsborough, born 1727 - died 1788 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    transparent oil on glass

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Ernest E. Cook through The Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    P.43-1955

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Gainsborough used transparencies when planning a major composition. This one is a preliminary idea for a large oil painting exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1783. The artist reversed the composition in a later glass transparency and in the final painting.

Physical description

This is catalogue no. 139 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 taken from Hayes, cat. no. 139:
This transparency is a preliminary idea for a large "Coastal Scene" on canvas now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (Hayes, cat. no. 141); in the final canvas however the composition is reversed and has fewer ships. Another transparency in the V&A (museum number P.41-1955) shows the same coastal scene, but is also reversed and is closest to the finished canvas. This transparency shows the pointing figure on the right of the picture, while transparency P.41-1955 shows the pointing figure on the left of the picture. Both transparencies demonstrate that, as with his drawing, one of the purposes for which Gainsborough used his transparencies was as a trial work-out for a major composition.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)

Date

ca. 1783 (painted)

Artist/maker

Thomas Gainsborough, born 1727 - died 1788 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

transparent oil on glass

Dimensions

Height: 27.9 cm, Width: 33.7 cm

Object history note

Hayes 1982, cat. no. 139, p. 505

"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.

Descriptive line

Oil painting on glass, 'Coastal Scene with Sailing and Rowing Boats and Figures on the Shore', Thomas Gainsborough, ca. 1783

Subjects depicted

Sailing boats; Rowing boats

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.

Ajax-loader