Gainsborough made many drawings after nature, and drew inspiration from the Northern European landscape tradition. However, this idyllic landscape is imaginary and the chalk sketch on which it is based were probably composed in the artist's London studio in 1783. Such landscapes also provided a backdrop for his portraits and his idealized images of the rural poor.
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Gainsborough probably painted this landscape shortly after his return from a tour of the Lake District in 1783. The painting, together with the rapid sketch that preceded it (Corsham Court Collection, Wiltshire), would have been made in Gainsborough’s London studio. In the painting he elaborates on the ideas presented in the drawing. The view is imaginary, and painted broadly in pastel colors so delicate and transparent that they suggest not oil but watercolor.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
?Smith; [Tooth, London, in 1898]; George A. Hearn, New York (until 1906)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscape Paintings," May 14–September 30, 1934, no. 59.
New York. University Club. October 13, 1948–March 20, 1949.
Denver Art Museum. "Glorious Nature: British Landscape Painting, 1750–1850," December 11, 1993–February 6, 1994, no. 15.
Ferrara. Palazzo dei Diamanti. "Thomas Gainsborough," June 7–August 30, 1998, no. 44.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne," June 23–November 12, 2006, no. 20.
Barcelona. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. "Grandes maestros de la pintura europea de The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York: De El Greco a Cézanne," December 1, 2006–March 4, 2007, no. 16.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art—Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 91.
Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art—Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 91.
Walter Armstrong. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898, p. 207 [popular ed., New York, 1904, p. 289], as "Landscape".
The George A. Hearn Gift to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in the City of New York in the Year MCMVI. New York, 1906, pp. xii, 158–59, ill.
"Mr. George A. Hearn's Gift to the Museum, and to the Cause of American Art." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 1 (February 1906), p. 35, as "English Landscape".
P[ercy]. M[oore]. Turner. "Pictures of the English School in New York." Burlington Magazine 22 (February 1913), p. 269, pl. IIIF.
"In Memoriam George Arnold Hearn . . ." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 9 (January 1914), p. 5, ill.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 40.
Ellis Waterhouse. Gainsborough. London, 1958, pp. 119–20, no. 969, pl. 191, as "Upland Hamlet with Figures and Stream," perhaps about 1783, and possibly from the Smith and Tooth collections.
John Hayes. The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough. New Haven, 1971, vol. 1, p. 259, under no. 655, publishes a study in the collection of Lord Methuen at Corsham Court, dating the painting 1782–84.
Ronald Paulson. Emblem and Expression: Meaning in English Art of the Eighteenth Century. Cambridge, Mass., 1975, pp. 221, 247 n. 48, mentions it as an example of Gainsborough's preference for showing humans on a downward slope, "from signs of civilization and society to primitivism".
John Hayes. The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough. Ithaca, N.Y., 1982, vol. 1, pp. 140, 145; vol. 2, pp. 325, 521–24, no. 150, ill., as Wooded Upland Landscape with . . . Village and Distant Mountains, painted about 1783–84; mentions it with the related drawing to illustrate his observation that "Gainsborough altered his designs remarkably little between the stages of sketch and painting, the main difference usually being in the staffage"; draws attention to the "flowing, lateral movement," subdued tonality, and fluid handling.
Katharine Baetjer inGlorious Nature: British Landscape Painting, 1750–1850. Exh. cat., Denver Art Museum. New York, 1993, pp. 116–17, no. 15, ill. (color), describes the differences between the drawing and the painting, which she finds far removed from nature, noting that in it "Gainsborough sees the countryside in nostalgic terms as an idyllic place of retreat and offers little, if any, commentary on rural life".
Kathleen Nicholson in "Naturalizing Time / Temporalizing Nature: Turner's Transformation of Landscape Painting." Glorious Nature: British Landscape Painting 1750–1850. Exh. cat., Denver Art Museum. New York, 1993, p. 33, describes the terrain as "'of his own Brain'" and "according to his own taste and imagination".
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 189, ill.
Thomas Gainsborough. Ed. John Hayes. Exh. cat., Palazzo dei Diamanti. Ferrara, 1998, pp. 56, 150–51, no. 44, ill. (color), as resulting from Gainsborough's visit to the lakes of Cumbria in the later summer of 1783.
Katharine Baetjer inThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Chefs-d'œuvre de la peinture européenne. Exh. cat., Fondation Pierre Gianadda. Martigny, 2006, pp. 120–22, no. 20, ill. (color) [Catalan ed., Barcelona, 2006, pp. 70–71, no. 16, ill. (color)].
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 104–6, no. 46, ill. (color).
Peter Barnet and Wendy A. Stein inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 148, ill. pp. 38, 150 (color).
Katharine Baetjer inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, p. 246, no. 91, ill. [Chinese ed., Hefei Shi, 2013, pp. 200–201, no. 91, ill. (color)].
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