A Town across a River thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D , Case BECK, Shelf 1, Box 9

A Town across a River

Oil Painting
ca. 1833-1840 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Gainsborough used a wooden showbox to view his glass transparencies. This is one of two glass transparencies added to the ten after W. White bought the box in 1833. White may be the amateur painter of this name who exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1819-1821. The composition of this work derives ultimately from 17th-century Dutch painters such as Jacob Ruysdael.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
transparent oil on glass
Brief Description
Attributed to W. WHITE (active 1819-33)

This transparency was acquired as one of a set of 12 transparencies (museum numbers P.32-43-1955), all attributed to Thomas Gainsborough RA. Ten of the transparencies are original works by Gainsborough. Two of the transparencies (museum numbers P.38-1955 and P.40-1955) were in fact added to the series some time in the early 19th century.



A Town Across a River, ca.1833-40; on glass

NOT FOR ISSUE - SEE PAINTINGS SECTION; Glass; Thomas GAINSBOROUGH,RA
Physical Description
As this transparency is one of two added to the box in the early 19th century and is not by Gainsborough, it is not included 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 by Gainsborough and his display box, see "History 1", under "Historical Significance".

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



The compisition of this work derives ultimately from 17th century Dutch landscapes, with conventional framing trees to the left and right. Two figures are seated in the foreground, while in the centre-ground is a river with two boats and in the distance a town with a church tower.
Dimensions
  • Approx. height: 27.9cm
  • Width: 33.7cm
Dimensions based on others in series.
Style
Gallery Label
Attributed to W. White active 1819-1833 A Town across a River About 1833-1840 This is one of two glass transparencies added to the ten in Gainsborough's showbox after its purchase by W. White in 1833. White may be the amateur painter of his name who exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1819-21. The composition of this work derives ultimately from 17th century Dutch painters such as Ruysdael. Oil on glass Bequeathed through the National Art Collections Fund by Ernest E. Cook 1955 Museum no. P.38-1955
Credit line
Bequeathed by Ernest E. Cook through Art Fund
Object history
Provenance for P.38-1955 and P.40-1955:

[The group of ten original transparencies and the show box: 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;]



The group of ten transparencies, with two additions [P.38-1955 and P.40-1955], and the show box: anon. sale [Buck Reid], 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.



Historical significance: General Note on the Gainsborough's transparency box 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.
Production
This work is one of two glass transparencies added to the 10 in Gainsborough's show-box after its purchase by W. White in 1833. White may be the amateur painter of this name who exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1819-21. It is possible therefore that the two transparencies were painted by White, the amateur painter and owner of the ten original transparencies by Gainsborough.
Subjects depicted
Summary
Gainsborough used a wooden showbox to view his glass transparencies. This is one of two glass transparencies added to the ten after W. White bought the box in 1833. White may be the amateur painter of this name who exhibited landscapes at the Royal Academy in 1819-1821. The composition of this work derives ultimately from 17th-century Dutch painters such as Jacob Ruysdael.
Bibliographic Reference
Hayes, John. The landscape paintings of Thomas Gainsborough: a critical text and catalogue raisonné. London: Sotheby Publications, 1982, vol. 2.
Collection
Accession Number
P.38-1955

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record createdJuly 26, 2003
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