Thomas Gainsborough

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Thomas Gainsborough
Study of a Woman Holding a Shawl
Black chalk with smudging, oil soaked chalk, on laid paper.
16 1/8 x 8 15/16 inches (409 x 227 mm)
Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909.
III, 57

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Inscribed on the verso, in pencil, by Gainsborough / The above is the writing of John Constable R.A.

Probably owned by Margaret Gainsborough (1751-1820), the artist's daughter, and by descent to Richard Lane (1800-1872), London; perhaps John Constable (1776-1837); Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919), London and Florence; from whom purchased through Galerie Alexandre Imbert, Rome, in 1909 by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913), New York (no mark; see Lugt 1509); his son, J. P. Morgan, Jr. (1867-1943), New York.

Bolzoni, Marco S. Thomas Gainsborough : Experiments in Drawings. New York : The Morgan Library & Museum, 2018, p. 54, no. 5, repr.
Collection J. Pierpont Morgan : Drawings by the Old Masters Formed by C. Fairfax Murray. London : Privately printed, 1905-1912, III, 57.
Wiles, Stephanie. To Observe and Imagine : British Drawings, 1600-1900. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1998, no. 32.


The present drawing is an exquisite example of Gainsborough's draftsmanship in the early 1760s, when, during his years in Bath, he developed a reputation as a portraitist. The artist's fascination with the effects of light on fabric, emphasized by the movement of the model and the consequent vibration of the cloth, led him to explore the many tonal solutions offered by the black chalk. By dipping it in oil while crafting this study, the artist accentuated some of the darkest areas of the woman's dress, enhancing the figure's sense of motion. -- Exhibition Label, from "Thomas Gainsborough: Experiments in Drawings."

Associated names: 

Gainsborough, Margaret, 1751-1820, former owner.
Lane, Richard, 1800-1872, former owner.
Constable, John, 1776-1837, former owner.
Murray, Charles Fairfax, 1849-1919, former owner.
Morgan, J. Pierpont (John Pierpont), 1837-1913, former owner.

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