Landscape with Cattle

Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788)
Landscape with Cattle, 1780s
Pen and ink with wash and white heightening, on paper
11 1/16 × 14 3/8 in. (28.1 × 36.51 cm)
Gift of the family, in memory of Isabelle Miller (George M. Chester, William M. Chester, Jr., John Chapman Chester and Marion C. Read) M1985.79
Photo credit: John R. Glembin
Not Currently on View

Gainsborough sometimes said that while portraiture was his profession, landscape painting was his pleasure. There was money to be made in portraits, whereas his landscapes rarely sold.

This lovely drawing, most likely from the last decade of Gainsborough’s career, depicts a herdsman and his two cows in the hilly countryside. Gainsborough used wash and white highlights to give depth to his outlines in ink, such that the trees seem to take on a life of their own. The peaceful scene is a variation on subjects that Gainsborough used throughout his career. Pulling from the pastoral tradition, he shows humans and nature working together. It may also reflect a criticism of the enclosure movement, when land that had been traditionally used in common was fenced for the private use of one (usually wealthy) owner, leaving the country economy broken.

Publication History
Wind, Barry, Joseph Ruzicka and Russell Bowman. Old Master Drawings from Area Collections. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Milwaukee Art Museum, 1997, p. 22, cat. 8, b/w illus. p. 22.

Atkinson, Tracy. Wisconsin Collects, Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Arrow Press, 1964, p. 14, cat. 124, b/w illus. p. 5.
Exhibition History
Old Master Drawings from Area Collections, Milwaukee Art Museum, April 18 – June 29, 1997.

From Gainsborough to Pearlstein: A Decade of Drawing Acquisitions, Milwaukee Art Museum, Sept. 20 - Dec. 9, 1990

Wisconsin Collects, Milwaukee Art Center, September 24, 1964–October 25, 1964.

This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.