National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Mountain Landscape with Bridge Thomas Gainsborough (artist)
British, 1727 - 1788
Mountain Landscape with Bridge, c. 1783/1784
oil on canvas
overall: 113 x 133.4 cm (44 1/2 x 52 1/2 in.) framed: 146.7 x 167.6 cm (57 3/4 x 66 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
1937.1.107
On View
From the Tour: Britain's Royal Academy of Art in the Late 1700s and Early 1800s
Object 3 of 8

Gainsborough increasingly strove to depict idyllic scenery and extraordinary colors. This picturesque vista of butter-yellow clouds floating in a mauve sky is far too perfect to exist in the real world. Gainsborough, however, required a tangible subject so that he could study and capture the shimmering effects of light upon surfaces.

Writing about some of Gainsborough's landscapes, his rival Sir Joshua Reynolds revealed, "He even framed a kind of model of landskips, on his table; composed of broken stones, dried herbs, and pieces of looking glass, which he magnified and improved into rocks, trees, and water." Here, shiny hard coal may have served for the wet banks of the brook, a crushed mirror for the glistening ripples, and broccoli and brussels sprouts for the forest. Thus, from a scale model, Gainsborough did indeed "magnify and improve" upon nature.

Liked and respected by his colleagues, Gainsborough developed a painting technique so personal that he had virtually no followers. He, in fact, embodies the notion of eccentric genius. In an age when a Grand Tour was considered a necessary part of one's education, he never went abroad. Though a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1769, he ignored its business meetings and, following a quarrel over the hanging of his pictures, refused to exhibit there after 1783.

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