Thomas Gainsborough

Wooded Landscape with Peasant Reading Tombstone, Rustic Lovers and Ruined Church

1779–80, reprinted 1797

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

Etching on paper
Image: 298 x 394 mm
Presented by A.E. Anderson 1910

Display caption

A 1753 edition of Gray's 'Elegy' (no.48) included an engraving, after Richard Bentley, which shows two people in a graveyard, seen through a ruined Gothic arch, studying a headstone epitaph. This soon became a model for other artists, including Gainsborough, to follow as they responded to the current taste for the solitary and melancholy. 'Night Thoughts' was very much a product of this taste. Young's display of unrestrained imagination vividly demonstrates how the Gothic revival shaped the Romantic sensibility of the later 1700s. The early careers of Romantic artists such as Blake, when he worked as an apprentice in Westminster Abbey in the 1770s, and Turner (no.41) found them among tombs.

Gallery label, September 2004