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Gainsborough never travelled to Italy, although he studied the work of old master painters such as Claude, Rubens and others. He continually fused references to the work of these earlier landscape artists with his own ideas and observations on nature, creating a highly individual vision of a British rural idyll.

This sombre scene may be a view in the Lake District, which Gainsborough had visited in 1783. However, his later landscapes were far from conventional representations of particular places. They became increasingly poetic in mood, often with a dramatic quality that anticipated the later landscapes of Constable and Turner.

September 2004