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Genre, Shepherd Boys, Thomas Gainsborough, London, Late 18th Century (Sold)

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Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) (after)
Henry Edward Dawe (1790-1848) (engraver)
Boys and Dogs
London: Late 18th Century
11.25 x 8.25 inches, overall

Two snarling dogs fight as two shepherd boys in ragged clothes look on. As one dog lunges for the other’s throat, the boy on the right is worried, and raises his stick, preparing to intervene. However, his companion, with a hint of a smile, restrains him. Meanwhile, placid sheep sun themselves in the pasture beyond. The striking composition, with its unusual tilted background, emphasizes the action and drama of the scene. This is a proof before title.

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Thomas Gainsborough was an English painter and printmaker, known for his portraits, landscapes and “fancy pictures,” and held in high esteem by his peers including his artistic rival Joshua Reynolds, who eulogized him after his death as a “genius sufficient to acquire to us the honourable distinction of an English School.” His works are in the collections of the world’s great museums: the Louvre, the Hermitage, The Frick Collection and the British Museum and National Gallery, to name a few. In the realm of printmaking, he was among the first to adopt what were then innovative techniques–aquatint and soft-ground etching. He is admired today for his painterly flair, empathic portraits, and dramatic landscapes in the Romantic manner. While Gainsborough painted dozens of portraits of finely dressed members of the upper classes, such as his famous “The Blue Boy” (1770), he also painted numerous sympathetic scenes of shepherds and farm workers.


“Thomas Gainsborough.” Artcyclopedia. 2001.

“Thomas Gainsborough.” Grove Dictionary of Art Artists’ Biographies. Macmillan, 2000.

Additional information


18th Century