Rare "After" Thomas Gainsborough, soft ground etching – Wooded River Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep
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Soft ground etching and aquatint on paper, "After" Thomas Gainsborough, Wooded River Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep.
Perhaps one of the rarest, most controversial and beautiful etching ever produced: "After" a drawing by Thomas Gainsborough R.A (1727-1788)
Thomas Gainsborough was an English landscape painter and printmaker. He is considered by some to be most important British artist of the 18th century, if not of all time. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy.
This landscape dates from the 1780s. Its impression is both important and controversial to the art world; a mythical creation, of grail like status.
The climax of intrigue peaks in 1970 when 11 plates linked to Thomas Gainsborough are discovered in the possession of the McQueen printing family. The plates are identified by Gainsborough scholar, and former director of the National Portrait Gallery, John Hayes, as engraved/etched by Thomas Gainsborough. He catalogued the works in his 1971 study, “Gainsborough As Printmaker”. But then things got interesting.
None of the etchings were published while Gainsborough was alive. The first issue of nine plates was published after the artist's death by J. Boydell in 1797.
The McQueens never printed, and crucially, two plates remained unpublished by J. Boydell: Wooded Landscape with Three Cows at a Pool, and Wooded Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep. So, in 1971, one sole edition was printed by Philip McQueen (under the supervision of Iain Bain of the Tate Gallery) of all plates, including the two unpublished.
To preserve the copper plates from wear, the printing was limited to 75 impressions from each plate. The plates then passed into the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery, London, where they remain to this day.
This publication was the first and only of: Wooded Landscape with Three Cows at a Pool, and Wooded Landscape with Shepherd and Sheep. Wooded Landscape is, for reasons I explain in the free booklet that accompanies your purchase, the best of the lot.
Almost all of the 75 sets were purchased by prestigious museum or library collections from London to New York, Amsterdam and Berlin. A handful remain in private collections, and represent some of the most sought after modern prints in the world.
The story took a new twist in 2021 when academic, Dr Susan Sloman, published a book ‘Gainsborough in London’. She claimed in her book that the plates are not Thomas Gainsborough, but the hand of the artist’s nephew Gainsborough Dupont.
Sloman points out that Gainsborough was right-handed and the predominant angle of his shading lines, in the print, is from lower left to upper right. As an original print is a mirror image, rather than an identical of the original plate, she claimed Thomas Gainsborough would have deliberately reverse the direction of lines on the plate so that he could make more accurate imitations of his drawings.
The debate will likely continue. What is not in doubt is that the "Gainsborough" copper plates stored by McQueen family were kept in exceptional condition, based on the quality of the impressions.
They were printed on the best gear press of printers Thomas Ross & Son. The plates were inked using hand-ground Frankfort black combined with Burnt Umber in oil. Each impression was wiped and printed by hand in the traditional manner, with an expertise which is now all but lost. Indeed, these impressions represent an enterprise rarely seen in this age and are effectively some of the last impressions (After G or not) of a Gainsborough printed work surviving on the open market.
A certificate of authenticity is included. Also included for free is an exclusive essay on why this "Gainsborough" engravings – from plates stored in the Tate – may have been produced by Thomas Gainsborough and not nephew Gainsborough Dupont. Also included for free is an exclusive accompanying booklet on The Stephen Neale Art Collection, as well a biography of Thomas Gainsborough.