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Oil painting - Wooded Upland Landscape with Shepherd, Donkey and Scattered Sheep, Lake and Distant Village and Hills
  • Wooded Upland Landscape with Shepherd, Donkey and Scattered Sheep, Lake and Distant Village and Hills
    Thomas Gainsborough, born 1727 - died 1788
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Wooded Upland Landscape with Shepherd, Donkey and Scattered Sheep, Lake and Distant Village and Hills

  • Object:

    Oil painting

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1786 (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 Art Fund

  • Museum number:

    P.42-1955

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case BECK, shelf 1, box 7

In 1824 a reviewer wrote the following description of this oil painting. 'A moonlight scene. The moon has just risen above the hills and is brilliantly reflected in the rippling stream. A few sheep scattered in the fore-ground add great beauty to the stillness of the scene'.

Physical description

This is catalogue no. 172 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. 172:
A drawing in a private collection (illustrated Hayes, fig.172a) may have been a study for this transparency, but could equally well have been executed from it subsequently. As in many of the transparencies that have survived, the composition is dominated by a prominent sheet of water, here brilliantly lit by moonlight - an effect, suited to the medium, and not found in Gainsborough's landscapes in oil on canvas.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)

Date

ca. 1786 (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. 172, p. 553

"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, 'Wooded Upland Landscape with Shepherd, Donkey and Scattered Sheep, Lake and Distant Village and Hills', Thomas Gainsborough, ca. 1786

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

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. 553, cat. no. 172

Materials

Oil paint; Glass

Techniques

Oil painting

Subjects depicted

Moonlight; Shepherd; Donkey

Categories

Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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