The Harvest Wagon – (Thomas Gainsborough) Previous Next


Style: Rococo

Topic: Arts Harvesting Scenes

Date: 1767

Size: 144 x 120 cm

Technique: Oil On Canvas

The Harvest Wagon is the name for two paintings done by English artist Thomas Gainsborough. This is the first and was done around 1767, now in the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, in Birmingham, England. The later painting was done around 1784 and is part of the collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario. The later painting is the better known of the two. Both paintings depict a group of peasants riding inside a simple wagon through a rural landscape with a collection of nearby animals. A young boy leads the wagon, while a man helps lift a young woman aboard. The painting is set in the area around Gainsborough's adopted city of Bath, where he lived for 14 years of his life. In 1995 the two museums collaborated on a joint show that displayed the two versions side by side, first on display in England and then in Canada. The two paintings of a similar subject done some seventeen years apart show the evolution of Gainsborough as an artist. The later painting is more sedate, the figures more composed and less excited. Gainsborough scholar Hugh Besley sees landscape, people, and animals being more unified in the later work. He also sees more influence of Reubens on Gainsborough's style and technique. Reubens The Descent from the Cross being an especially important influence. The woman being pulled up is ascending to the wagon, in a motion opposite to Christ's. Christina Payne has observed some of the symbolism in the 1784 work, noting that the broken pitcher placed in front of the pregnant passenger may be linked to a pitcher then being a symbol of virginity. The later painting is also far more intimate to the artist as the women in the wagon are portrait's of Gainsborough's own daughters, Mary and Margaret.

This artwork is in the public domain.


Thomas Gainsborough


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