It is remarkable that Gainsborough, who lived in an age when the “grand tour”
became an essential element in the life of England’s aristocracy and affluent
middle classes, never left his native land. He apparently found sufficient
opportunity to study important examples of Dutch landscape painting in highquality English collections. The son of John Gainsborough, a maker of
woollen goods, he opened his own studio in London in 1744 after several years of training but moved to Ipswich two years later. There he received his first portrait commissions from members of the English aristocracy. (Decades later, in 1780, Gainsborough became the official portraitist of the royal family.) In Ipswich he also painted a series of landscape paintings, among them the present work, which was acquired for the imperial collection in 1913. The shallow pond on the left surrounded by gnarled trees and the view of the winding path leading into the distance are traditional motifs of Dutch painting. Only a small patch of the horizon is visible, and it is further constricted by a country house placed at its centre. The dark clouds that tower above the scenery correspond in their form and colour to the basic shades of the landscape lying below them; the small body of water reflects the blue of the sky. Only the luminescent red clothing of the staffage figure resting at the side of the path disturbs the unified scheme of coloration. Remarkable is the Rococo-style lightness and agility with which the paint has been applied. In contrast to Ruisdael’s heavy, “heroic” landscape (KHM, Inv.-Nr. 426), this one is “elegant and casual”, and thus more in keeping with the character of the English aristocracy. © Cäcilia Bischoff, Masterpieces of the Picture Gallery, Vienna 2010


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