Thomas Gainsborough, A cart passing along a winding road, a watercolour

England, around AD 1765

Gainsborough rarely bothered to paint specific locations after his early years in Suffolk. Increasingly, he developed a more evocative and poetic interpretation of nature.This fine watercolour was probably based on rough sketches made in the countryside around Bath where he had lived from 1760 in order to paint portraits of the visitors to the spa.

Painted in watercolour over black chalk and heightened with white bodycolour, the chiaroscuro (light and shade) is the most noticeable feature of this drawing. Pools of light illuminate the road, the horses and gaps between the trees. Gainsborough reveals here his study of the work of Flemish landscape artists, particularly van Dyck, for whose work he had a profound respect and understanding. Gainsborough's dying words were said to have been: ‘We are all going to Heaven, and van Dyck is of the company'.

Gainsborough continued to paint many landscape drawings and paintings long after he left the countryside and settled in London in 1774. He often composed imaginary landscapes from studio arrangements of glass, twigs, broccoli and pebbles, lit by candles or lamps. He himself said that he wished nothing more than ‘to walk off to some sweet Village where I can paint landskips'.

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More information


L. Stainton, Nature into art: English lands (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

M. Royalton-Kisch, The light of nature: landscape (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

J. Hayes and L. Stainton, Gainsborough drawings (Washington International Exhibitions Foundation, 1983)


Height: 237.000 mm
Width: 317.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1899-5-16-10



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