Author(s): Marco Simone Bolzoni
William Jackson, one of Gainsborough's closest friends and biographers, noted that if he had "to rest his Gainsborough] reputation on one point, it should be on his Drawings." Gainsborough was indeed a draftsman of rare talent and creativity, and his experiments in drawing inspired an entire generation of British artists, from John Constable (1776-1837) to J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851). When not occupied with his lucrative portrait business, Gainsborough devoted much of his time to his true passion, the depiction of landscapes, and more than 600 of the artist's approximately 800 surviving drawings depict the British countryside. Like most artists from his generation, Gainsborough did not draw directly from nature but instead reinvented landscape "of his own brain," laying out on his work table stones, branches, leaves, and soil of various colors. His passion for drawing extended to technical experimentation. Gainsborough mixed different kind of media and invented recipes to make drawings in his own personal fashion: he would sometimes immerse his drawing paper in milk, or varnish it to give his landscapes a lucent tint.
The exhibition is based on the group of Gainsborough drawings in the permanent collection of the Morgan Library & Museum, one of the richest holdings of Gainsborough drawing in the United States. Additional drawings from private and public collections, among them some borrowed for the exhibition, are included in the introductory essay of the catalogue.