Visited the last day of the Gainsborough Landscapes exhibition at the Holburne Museum last weekend. A small but very interesting exhibition, surveying Gainsborough’s landscape output, his antidote to the drudgery of portrait painting.
This was a revisit for me, just to give them all another look before they travel on to Compton Verney. The exhibition comprised half a dozen large oil paintings, from all stages of his career, and several small sketches, putting the larger works into context.The sketches were done using a variety of media and supports, including chalk, graphite, watercolour and oil, some varnished, on paper, board and canvas. Quite a varied use of media.
Technically the oil paintings progress from a light and thin brushmark at the beginning of his career, to a darker, more heavily textured mark at the end. All the paintings display a technical mastery, and a detailed and accurate, if idealised or imagined, observational representation of rural landscape. However, stylistically they moved from a calmer, classical atmosphere in his early work, toward a darker, Romantic atmosphere in the his work. I even felt a John Martin-esque quality in his depiction of panoramic landscape and aerial atmosphere in the last work on display. In common with many artists at the end of the C18/beginning of the C19 Gainsborough travelled to the Lake District to come face to face with the sublime, and the awe-inspiring and threatening beauty of wild and rugged Cumbria; its lakes, mountains and waterfalls. A very good exhibition of rich and diverse work, placing the main work in an informative context.
Across the landing is a room full of his portrait paintings, many full-size, and it is interesting to compare these paintings from which he earned his living and reputation with his more personal landscape works.