Thomas Gainsborough RA, Mountainous Wooded Landscape with Figures and Sheep (Study for 'Romantic Landscape')

Mountainous Wooded Landscape with Figures and Sheep (Study for 'Romantic Landscape'), ca. 1783

Thomas Gainsborough RA (1727 - 1788)

RA Collection: Art

This is the only known drawing relating to Thomas Gainsborough’s oil painting Romantic Landscape (03/1396). It depicts a woodland mountain scene with two figures in the foreground sitting on a rock overlooking the landscape. In common with the finished painting, the drawing includes a fountain to the left of the composition, a rock in the centre, large rock formations and woodland in the background, as well as similar falls of light and shadow. The drawing has long been considered within the context of the crafting of the painting, although the two compositions differ in several respects, most interestingly in the replacement of the figures who appear to be travellers in the original drawing with shepherds in the finished painting.

The study is a rare example of a working drawing that shows Gainsborough’s thought processes as he shaped and revised the composition of Romantic Landscape. This can be seen most evidently in his alterations to the mountain in the background of the drawing, which he erased and replaced with a cloud. A painting from around the same time, Pastoral Landscape (Rocky Mountain Valley with a Shepherd, Sheep, and Goats) (c. 1782–84, Philadelphia Museum of Art), is thought to have been a point of departure for this drawing and consequently for the Royal Academy’s painting. However, it includes a mountain prominently in the centre with trees on either side. The changes to this study show that Gainsborough decided to avoid this symmetrical approach in favour of a more irregular, and hence more sublime, arrangement.

Supported by Harry Hyman and family

Object details

Mountainous Wooded Landscape with Figures and Sheep (Study for 'Romantic Landscape')
ca. 1783
Object type
Black and white chalk with black ink on faded blue laid paper

176 mm x 214 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Purchased from Robert Holden Ltd in 16 April 2012

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