Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788)
River Landscape with a View of a Distant Village, ca. 1748–50
Oil on canvas
30 x 59 1/2 in.
Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh
© Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland
This early work by Gainsborough presents a carefully composed scene stretched across a wide canvas, possibly intended to hang over a mantelpiece. Beneath an expanse of pale blue sky, a river winds through a valley toward a sunlit village. A path mirrors the river’s curves, and the rings of clouds echo the rise of the small hill at left. Gainsborough animates the scene with an encounter — possibly amorous — between traveler and milkmaid, along with a barking dog and other rustic figures and animals. Although the view is drawn largely from the imagination and informed by examples of seventeenth-century Dutch landscape, Gainsborough’s rendering of the soft earth of the riverbank, the dense foliage and crumbling bark of the trees, and the reflective surface of the water reveals his dedication to the direct study of nature.