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Thomas Gainsborough, Portrait of a Lady, a chalk study


Height: 491.000 mm
Width: 311.000 mm

Bequeathed by the Revd George Salting

PD 1910-2-12-250

Prints and Drawings

    Thomas Gainsborough, Portrait of a Lady, a chalk study

    England, about AD 1785-88

    This figure study is one of a group which may have been made for a painting, The Richmond Water-walk that Gainsborough had planned as a companion to his large painting of fashionable ladies promenading in The Mall (1783, Frick Collection, New York), which may have been commissioned by George III (reigned 1760-1820). Although several surviving studies of around 1785 indicate the vast scale of the project, the final painting on canvas was never begun.

    He has drawn the woman in black chalk and stump on a light brown paper. Her dress has a sheen, the play of light boldly highlighted in white bodycolour. Silhouetted in near profile against her large black hat, she turns back to look invitingly at the viewer. At her breast she holds a single rose. The light and fluidly drawn gauze shawl around her shoulders is echoed by the sketchy trees to left and right.

    According to an inscription formerly on the back of the frame, Gainsborough 'was much struck with what he called the "fascinating leer" of the Lady who is the subject of the drawing.' As several contemporary critics noted, it is close in treatment to the paintings of the French artist, Jean-Antoine Watteau. This is particularly evident in the drawing's delicacy and the lady's coy look which recall Watteau's gentle paintings on the theme of love.

    J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

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

    M. Rosenthal, The art of Gainsborough: a lit (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1999)

    J. Hayes, Thomas Gainsborough (London, Tate Gallery, 1980)


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