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Thomas Gainsborough: 'The Watering Place'

A group of cattle and goats have been driven to drink in a stream or pool. Two country girls, a child and a man are posed behind them on the left.

Gainsborough made this composition sometime after his return from Bath to London in 1774. It is based on a drawing he made, and also echoes a painting by Rubens owned by the Duke of Montagu, which Gainsborough saw in London in 1768 (now in the Collection). But where Rubens' work is energetic and a morning scene, Gainsborough's, glimpsed in fading light, is tranquil and contemplative.

This work is almost certainly the landscape exhibited by Gainsborough at the Royal Academy in 1777 and warmly praised by several contemporary critics, including Horace Walpole.


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