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A Coastal Landscape
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wbillingsley's picture

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Like any true artist, Gainsborough's real passion was not how he made his money.

Thomas Gainsborough is famous for the portraits he made during his career, many of which are widely known, such as Blue Boy. He was so good at these that he became the only person hailing from outside London to be recognized during the foundation of the Royal Academy. His true passion however was not in painting people, but rather in painting the world around him. Thomas was really into painting landscapes, like this one. At the time landscape painting was considered a bit of a lowly art, however Thomas continued making works like these throughout his career, and eventually helped establish the art form in England.

Likely the source of his adoration of the natural world comes from where he was born. Thomas grew up in Sudbury, Suffolk, a town that to this day can be considered somewhat rural. Away from the textile factories popping up in major cities that embraced the industrial revolution, he was able to go out to enjoy the fine British countryside, through which wound the River Stour, and was not terribly far from the sea. This raw inspiration would then mix with lessons learned by looking at the work of Duch masters like  Anthony Van Dyck and  Peter Paul Rubens, resulting in some amazingly romantic images of the world around him. 

Gainsborough’s education and profession would eventually lead him away from his beloved countryside, however this would not stop him from pursuing his passion. The artist would stage models for himself in his studio using twigs and pebbles. A Coastal Landscape was likely not based off a real location, but a scene he had made in his studio. You can see this in the scale of the objects, notably how big the cows are in relation to the little boat in the foreground. But the fact that most people might not even notice this discrepancy is a testament to how skilled Thomas really was. 

Sources

Sources

  1. Gainsborough’s House Society “About Thomas Gainsborough: Technique” Gainsborough's House 2016 http://www.gainsborough.org/about/about-thomas-gainsborough/
  2. Oxford Reference "Thomas Gainsborough." Oxford University Press; Accessed 20 Aug. 2019. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095840481
  3. Whitley, William Thomas “Thomas Gainsborough” Smith, Elder & Co. 1915 https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=SjYKAQAAIAAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&d...
  4. Denver Art Museum Copy “A Coastal Landscape: Extended Info” Denver Art Museum viewed on 08/20/2019 https://denverartmuseum.org/object/2019.13