Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Wooded landscape with herdsman, cows and sheep, 1784-5
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Wooded landscape with herdsman, cows and sheep, 1784-85, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust) © The Courtauld

Wooded landscape with herdsman, cows and sheep

Thomas Gainsborough

Landscapes offered Gainsborough the chance to explore his interest in drawing and love of the countryside. If as a portraitist he was obliged to flatter and obey the sitter’s requests, in drawing landscapes his artistic freedom was liberated Towards the end of his life, he wrote to a friend of his desire to retire to “some sweet village, where I can paint Landskips”. However, his career kept him in London until his death.  

He constructed imaginary landscapes by grouping small stand-ins, such as coal for rocks and broccoli for trees, in rhythmic compositions. As he described, figures like the herdsman were placed “to create a little business for the eye to be drawn from the trees in order to return to them with more glee”.  

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Two men sit across from each other at a table covered with a brown tablecloth, playing cards. Both men wear overcoats and hats, and the man on the left smokes a pipe. They sit inside a wooden building. i Paul Cézanne (1839-1906) The Card Players, around 1892-96, The Courtauld, London (Samuel Courtauld Trust)

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