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Thomas Gainsborough, The Watering Place

Key facts
Full title The Watering Place
Artist Thomas Gainsborough
Artist dates 1727 - 1788
Date made before 1777
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 147.3 × 180.3 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Charles Long MP, later Lord Farnborough, 1827
Inventory number NG109
Location Room 34
Collection Main Collection
The Watering Place
Thomas Gainsborough

A group of cattle and goats has been herded to drink in a stream or pool. Two country girls, a child and a man sit quietly on the sandy bank. The sun begins to sink behind the distant hills, casting a golden evening light over the peaceful woody landscape.

Gainsborough’s painting is based on a drawing he made (private collection). It also echoes a painting by Rubens, now known as The Watering Hole, which Gainsborough saw in London in 1768. But where Rubens’s work, now also in the National Gallery, is energetic and a morning scene, Gainsborough’s, glimpsed in fading light, is tranquil and contemplative.

This painting was exhibited by Gainsborough at the Royal Academy in 1777 and he also made an etching of the scene (Tate Gallery, London).

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