Thomas Gainsborough

Study of a Cow

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Thomas Gainsborough 1727–1788
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 144 x 189 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund 1996
Reference
T08110

Display caption

This study was drawn using graphite pencil, a material Gainsborough especially liked to use. He cared passionately about the quality of his materials, but soft graphite required fixing to prevent smudging. The denser brown around the cow suggests that a fixative was used to 'set' the graphite, which has now discoloured. One method Gainsborough described was to 'dip it all over in skim'd milk'. An initial dip in boiling water was also recommended to remove loose graphite particles. It is not known whether the fixative used here was milk, but it has the distinctive matt and age-darkened quality of milk-based fixatives.

Gallery label, August 2004

Explore