Lot 7
  • 7

Thomas Gainsborough R.A. 1727 - 1788

30,000 - 50,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Gainsborough R.A.
  • Wooded Landscape with Horseman and Horse drinking at a trough

  • brown wash heightened with white, varnished


Among the drawings left by the artist to his wife, Margaret;
by descent to Sophia Lane;
by descent to Richard Lane, his sale at Christie's, 25th February 1831, lot 101 (with another) bt.Tiffin;
Charles Fairfax Murray;
Henry J.Pfungst, his sale at Christie's, 15th June 1917, lot 5 bt.Sir George Donaldson;
Henry Schniewind, Jr


London, Colnaghi's, A Selection of Studies and Drawings by Thomas Gainsborogh, R.A., 1906, no.62;
Ohio, Cincinnati Art Museum, Paintings and Drawings by Thomas Gainsborogh R.A., 1-31st May 1931, no.70


Arthur B.Chamberlain, Thomas Gainsborough, 1903, p.168, p.79 illus;
Paintings and Drawings by Thomas Gainsborough, R.A., Cincinnati Art Museum Exhibition Catalogue, 1931, pl.70;
E.S.Siple, 'Gainsborough Drawings: The Schniewind Collection', The Connoisseur, June 1934, pp.357-358, p.358 illus;
Mary Woodall, Gainsborough's Landscape Drawings, 1939, p.471;
John Hayes, The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, 1970, pp.38 & 219, no.480;
John Hayes, The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, 1982, p.471, no.124a, illus.

Catalogue Note

‘Among the vast number of drawings he left behind him, only a very few can be identified as studies or sketches for any particular picture, and these are mostly final; that is they represent the picture as it was actually carried out.’ (Sir Walter Armstrong quoted by E.S.Siple, 'Gainsborough Drawings: The Schniewind Collection', The Connoisseur, June 1934, p358)

As Sir Walter Armstrong noted, Gainsborough’s drawings were mostly an end in themselves and few of them were studies which led to the actual production of a painting. The present drawing, however, is a rare study for an oil which Gainsborough exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1780, no.74 (see John Hayes, The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, 1982, p.471, no.124). This study concentrates on the central motif of the composition showing a figure on a white horse in the foreground, with a bay horse drinking at a trough - a subject unique amongst Gainsborough’s oeuvre. In the finished painting the background is more fully worked than in this study and a vista appears on the left depicting a distant village and mountain. The pose of the white horse has been altered and, on the right, a small dog can also be seen drinking at the trough.

This study dates from the late 1770’s when Gainsborough was at the height of his career. By this date he was refining his style and in the present drawing he demonstrates his technical skill. He plays with the dramatic and atmospheric effects of light and shade, bathing the white horse in sunlight and making it the focal point of the composition. A shaft of light also falls upon the rocky cliff behind the trough whereas the rest of the landscape is softly bathed in shadow. This was the first time that Gainsborough had used large picturesque rocks in his landscapes and he uses the light to contrast them against the dense foliage which fills the background of the composition. Gainsborough’s technical versatility is also demonstrated by his rapid and free handling of chalk, characteristic of his drawings of this date. The loose scallops outlining the foliage and the broken contours of the figure and horses, for example, closely relate to his Wooded Landscape with Herdsman and Cattle (see John Hayes The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, 1970, p.218, no.475, pl.149). In both drawings Gainsborough illustrates his delight in rapid improvisation. He avoids detail and contour and instead concentrates on a freedom of expression and looseness of style.