Thomas Gainsborough

Experiments in Drawing

Marco Simone Bolzoni

Celebrated as the most notable portrait and landscape painter of Georgian England, Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was also a brilliant and experimental draftsman. Accompanying an exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, Thomas Gainsborough: Experiments in Drawing offers an overview of his work as a draftsman, with a particular look at
Date Published :
May 2018
Publisher :
Paul Holberton Publishing
No associated books available.


William Jackson, one of Gainsborough’s closest friends and biographers, noted that if he had “to rest his [Gainsborough] reputation on one point, it should be on his Drawings”. Gainsborough was indeed a draftsman of rare talent and creativity, and his experiments in drawing inspired an entire generation of British artists, from John Constable (1776–1837) to J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851). When not occupied with his lucrative portrait business, Gainsborough devoted much of his time to his true passion, the depiction of landscapes, and more than 600 of the artist’s approximately 800 surviving drawings depict the British countryside. Like most artists from his generation, Gainsborough did not draw directly from nature but instead reinvented landscape “of his own brain,” laying out on his work table stones, branches, leaves, and soil of various colors. His passion for drawing extended to technical experimentation. Gainsborough mixed different kind of media and invented recipes to make drawings in his own personal fashion: he would sometimes immerse his drawing paper in milk, or varnish it to give his landscapes a lucent tint.

The exhibition is based on the group of Gainsborough drawings in the permanent collection of the Morgan Library & Museum, one of the richest holdings of Gainsborough drawing in the United States. Additional drawings from private and public collections, among them some borrowed for the exhibition, are included in the introductory essay of the catalogue.

About The Author

Moore Curatorial Fellow at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York


"A draftsman of rare ability who extended the traditional boundaries of drawing technique … outstanding."

- Fine Books & Collections Magazie, Spring 2018

"Charming and delightful."

- Art Newspaper, June 2018

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