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ID number:  BIRBI-46.8
Institution:  The Barber Institute of Fine Arts
Artist / Maker:  Gainsborough, Thomas (1727-1788)
Title / Object name:  The Harvest Wagon
Object type:  Painting
Culture:  British
Date made:  exhibited 1767
Materials:  Oil on canvas
Measurements:  122.5 x 147.5cm unframed, 148 x 173 x 12cm framed
Provenance:  Given by Gainsborough in 1774 to Walter Wiltshire of Shockerwick near Bath. It remained with his family and at the John Wiltshire sale at Christie’s on the 25th May 1867 it was bought by the dealer, Davis (lot 126) for £3,147. It was later acquired by Lord Tweedmouth and about 1905 it passed into the possession of Sir Samuel Montagu, afterwards Lord Swaythling. Purchased at the sale of Lord Swaythling’s pictures at Christie’s on 12th July, 1946 (lot 20).

This beautiful Arcadian landscape was painted during the artist's Bath period and almost certainly exhibited at the Society of Artists in London 1767. The style owes much to Watteau, Claude and Rubens - Gainsborough never left England, so he acquired his knowledge from works he could see in UK collections. A variant of the composition, painted for the Prince of Wales in 1784-5, is in the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. A reduced grisaille copy was in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. Two preparatory drawings are in private collections.

A group of rustic figures travel in a harvest wagon at the end of the working day. The figures are unusually prominent for Gainsborough’s landscapes and are the result of careful study. Two of the women are based on the artist’s daughters Margaret and Mary, whilst the landscape is inspired by the beautiful countryside around Bath where Gainsborough lived.

Unlike his commissioned portraits, Gainsborough painted such landscapes for his own pleasure or as a speculation. His earliest paintings and drawings were of landscapes, and he was more fascinated by landscape painting than with portraiture.

This picture was given to his patron and friend Walter Wiltshire when the artist moved to London in 1774, as thanks for the presentation of the grey horse shown here.

Notes:  Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1771 (79 or 80); British Institution, 1814 (37); Royal Academy, Old Masters,1880 (140); Grosvenor Gallery, Works of Thomas Gainsborough, 1885 (33); Royal Academy, Old Masters, 1896 (94); Paris Royal Pavillion, Exposition Internationale, 1900 (63); Royal Academy, Old Masters, 1907 (109); Berlin, Aeltere Englische Kunst, 1908 (62); Copenhagen, Engelsk Künst, 1908 (7); Wembley, Palace of Arts, 1924 (v, 28); Ipswich, Gainsborough Bicentenary, 1927 (55); Vienna, Englische Malerei, 1927 (24); Brussels, Universal International Exhibition, 1935 (1109); 45 Park Lane, Gainsborough Loan Exhibition, 1936 (100); Paris, La Peinture Anglaise, 1938 (49); Arts Council of Great Britain, London, UK, Summer 1953; 'Bicentenary Exhibition', Royal Academy, London, UK, 12 December 1968 - 02 March 1969; 'Landscape in Britain 1750 - 1850', Tate Gallery, London, UK, 21 November 1973 - 03 February 1974; 'Thomas Gainsborough', Grand Palais, Paris, France, 07 February 1981 - 26 April 1981; 'Gainsborough in Bath: A Bicentenary Exhibition', Holbourne Museum and Crafts Study, Bath, UK, 01 July 1988 - 14 August 1988; 'Thomas Gainsborough: The Harvest Wagon', Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 28 April 1995 - 09 July 1995; 'Thomas Gainsborough: The Harvest Wagon', Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada, 29 July 1995 - 09 October 1995; 'Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)', Tate Britain, London, UK, 24 October 2002 - 12 January 2003; 'Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)', National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., USA, 09 February 2003 - 11 May 2003; 'Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788)', Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., USA, 15 June 2003 - 14 September 2003; 'British Vision: Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950', Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent, Belgium, 06 October 2007 - 13 January 2008; 'Rubens and his Legacy', Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium, 25 September 2014 - 04 January 2015; 'Rubens and his Legacy: Van Dyck to Cezanne', Royal Academy, London, UK, 24 January 2015 - 10 April 2015; 'Gainsborough: The Landscape of the Modern World', Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany, 2 March - 27 May 2018; 'Gainsborough's Family Album', National Portrait Gallery, London, 22 November 2018 - 3 February 2019

1 Related People

Gainsborough, Thomas

2 Related Publications

Gainsborough in Bath
Sloman, Susan


Tate Publishing
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