View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms
Gainsborough was an enthusiastic and accomplished draughtsman. More drawings survive by him than for any other British landscape artist in this period. In his early career his preferred drawing medium was pencil, and his favoured subject-matter plants, trees or animals, mossy banks, woodland paths and thickets. Drawing for Gainsborough has been described as an act of love and recreation rather than a means of storing up information - though he did sometimes turn to his early studies for compositional ideas. This drawing has been coated with a layer of fixative which has subsequently discoloured. Gainsborough recommended 'skim'd milk' for fixing chalk, but whether he used the same substance for fixing pencil is not known.
Gallery label, September 2004