A Herdsman with Three Cows by an Upland Pool

A Herdsman with Three Cows by an Upland Pool

mid-1780s

Thomas Gainsborough

(British, 1727-1788)

Watercolor, ink and oil paint heightened with white chalk ("Bristol lead white")

Sheet: 21.9 x 31.3 cm (8 5/8 x 12 5/16 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2006.156

Catalogue raisonné: Hayes 731

Location

Did you know?

Following the instruction of the influential painter and writer Jonathan Richardson, Gainsborough often arranged his landscape compositions with the brightest passage—here, the white cow and billowing clouds—near the center.

Description

Although he was one of the most celebrated society portraitists of his day, landscape painting was Thomas Gainsborough’s love and lifelong pleasure. Here, delicate layers of watercolor, ink, oil paint, and chalk result in a jewel-like work on paper. The composition combines the rural scene of a herdsman and three cows with an imagined, majestic mountain view, mingling the pastoral with the sublime. The sheet was among a group of 14 landscape drawings that Gainsborough selected as a gift for a close friend.

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