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Thomas Gainsborough
A Lady Walking in a Garden with a Child
c. 1785
Black chalk with stumping and heightened with white pastel

20 x 8 11/16 inches


J. Paul Getty Museum

Excerpt from The J. Paul Getty Museum:

Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727 - 1788)

At age thirteen, Thomas Gainsborough arrived in London from the nearby countryside eager to become an artist. There he studied with a noted French artist and was influenced by seventeenth-century Dutch landscape painting. In his early years, Gainsborough primarily painted landscapes and worked as a restorer for art dealers.

Although his true desire was to paint landscapes exclusively, portraits were in much greater demand in eighteenth-century England. As a portraitist, he was highly acclaimed and sought after by the English aristocracy for his elegant and flattering portrayals. He developed his painting style by studying the portraits by Anthony Van Dyck. In his late forties, Gainsborough settled permanently in London and became a founding member of the Royal Academy. After his death in 1788, Sir Joshua Reynolds, his contemporary and fierce rival, eulogized him thus: "If ever a nation should produce genius sufficient to acquire to us the honorable distinction of an English school, the name of Gainsborough will be transmitted to posterity, in the history of Art, among the very first of that rising name."

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Excerpt from The J. Paul Getty Museum:

A Lady Walking in a Garden with a Child

Although their identity is unknown, the lady and child strolling through a park are probably portraits of specific members of English high society. The woman wears a large picture hat, and her hair flows in loose ringlets over her shoulder, a hairstyle very much in vogue in England between 1785 and 1790. Sweeps of black chalk with fresh white heightening suggest the lightness of the woman’s step and the sense of breeze blowing through her skirts and gently agitating the surrounding foliage.

Thomas Gainsborough probably made this drawing as a study for The Richmond Water-Walk, a painting commissioned by King George III of England that was apparently never executed. The painting was to feature stylish ladies of the day promenading along the banks of the River Thames in London. To prepare for the painting, Gainsborough made sketching trips to St. James’s Park near his London home to draw the "high-dressed and fashionable ladies" he saw there. This drawing was very likely made on such a trip.


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Thomas Gainsborough, British, (1727-1788)
b. May 14, 1727, Sudbury
d. 1788

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