Huntington library features Gainsborough’s “Cottage Door”

The Huntington Library is currently featuring artist Thomas Gainsborough’s three different versions of The Cottage Door, a landscape piece by artist Thomas Gainsborough.

Thomas Gainsborough is one of the 18th century Rococo artists. He is famous for his paintings of landscapes, as well as portraits of royals. Beginning with Antoine Watteau , Rococo artists often used delicate pastel colors and depicted luxurious lifestyle of upper class people. Gainsborough was also one of the founding members of Royal Academy, an institution of art started by George III in Britain. Later in his life, Gainsborough freed himself from the traditional art form promoted by the Royal Academy, and went for a simpler, more casual style.

The Cottage Door depicts a peaceful rural scene. A young mother, surrounded by her little children, is sitting at the front door of a wooden house. A stream is flowing, and trees are waving. This scene represents the artist’s ideal landscape, and his pursuit of the harmony between figures and landscape.
The three paintings on display have the same motif, but were done in different stages of the artist’s life. In three versions of The Cottage Door on display, viewers can observe subtle differences among them.

Artist Gainsborough’s painting style returned to simplicity in his older age. The mother’s hairstyle became simpler in the latter painting, and the color tone of the whole painting also went warmer and got less intense. Gainsborough also rearranged the composition of the figures to create a more harmonious look, and to achieve balance between the nature and figures. Through subtle changes in light and the color of the sky, artist suggested different time of a day.

By comparing the paintings to each other, we can tell that Gainsborough has different emphasis on each of them. The mood artist was trying to create also altered through the arrangement of figures, the color tone, and illumination.

The exhibition of Gainsborough’s works in Huntington Library will last till December 2. Anyone who wants to learn more about this Rococo master and his art should definitely go and check it out.