Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) 1727 Extensive Wooded Upland Landscape c.1786, oil on canvas, 25.5 x 33cm

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Lot 53
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) 1727 Extensive Wooded Upland Landscape c.1786, oil on canvas, 25.5 x 33cm

Sold for £ 29,375 (US$ 40,999) inc. premium
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) 1727
Extensive Wooded Upland Landscape c.1786, oil on canvas,
Oil on canvas,
25.5 x 33cm

Footnotes

  • Provenance: with Frost and Reed, Bristol, 1910; Roger Fry; by descent to Dr Lewis S Fry; his daughter's anonymous sale, Christie's, 11 November 1994, lot 36 (repr. col.); private collection.
    Exhibited: on loan to the Courtauld Institute Galleries; 'From Gainsborough to Constable', Gainsborough's House, Sudbury and Leger Galleries, London, 17 August to 4 December 1991 (20) repr.
    Bibliography: J.Hayes, 'The Landscapes of Thomas Gainsborough', 2 volumes, London and Ithaca 1982, p.553, no.171 repr.

    Hugh Belsey, former curator of Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, writes:
    'In the edition of the 8 April 1786, the critic of the Morning Herald described a recent visit to Gainsborough's studio where he reported seeing 'late-finished Landscapes', which, he added, were 'the general topic among the devotees to the polite arts'. The critic, more than likely the artist's friend and confidante, Reverend Sir Henry Bate-Dudley, continued: 'Mr Gainsborough has of late been exercising his science upon some of those objects in rustic nature, on which the attention dwells with the finest pleasure. He has produced seven imaginary views, the materials of which are in the utmost harmony of composition, and possessed of the highest touches of genius.' Unfortunately the pictures described by Bate-Dudley cannot be linked with certainty to the painting on offer, although it is similar to the landscapes described and was painted at roughly the same time. Bate-Dudley concluded his report that these are 'some of the most charming little pictures that ever derived their subjects from rustic nature'.

    For the previous 25 years Gainsborough had spent many homespun evenings making drawings of imaginary landscapes. He was often prompted by table-top models of broccoli, mirror and lumps of coal to help him guage a balanced composition. After departing from the Royal Academy and invoking his threat, written in a letter to the hanging committee, that he would 'never more, whilst he breaths, send another Picture to the Exhibition', his career took a new path. He began to do what he wanted, choosing only the portrait commissions that amused him, developing the 'fancy-picture' and painting landscapes. As we have seen from Bate-Dudley's article, he transferred some of the affection he held for drawing landscapes to making paintings of a similar size, in which he carefully balanced the colour harmonies between trees and sky and focused his composition with well-placed groups of figures and livestock. The painting from the Fry collection is amongst the best of these.

    The Fry painting is a composition which fans out from the left-hand side. A white cow and herdsman are walking down an incline with a mountain in the background, silhouetted against the sky and a cloudscape which adds extra drama to the scene. The winding path to the left passes the odd sheep, and a wind-swept tree serves as a repoussoir and, in the disparity of scale, brings the distant mountain closer to the beholder. In the foreground is another stunted tree, more symmetrical than the one on the extreme left of the composition and, perched above a ravine the evening light catches a church tower, a reminder of an omnipotent God who was so important to the artist. In the centre a wedge of blue-green trees, stalled by the rock on the extreme right, emphasises the direction of the cowherd and builds a tension with the strong horizontals of the background.

    Poised and balanced, and echoing the sights Gainsborough had found so exhilarating in the Lake District during his brief visit there in the summer of 1783, the Fry landscape is a charming composition painted when the artist was working in his most personal style.' (HB 15.07.04)
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) 1727 Extensive Wooded Upland Landscape c.1786, oil on canvas, 25.5 x 33cm
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