Late in his career Thomas Gainsborough became preoccupied with the theme of the cottage door, and he created a group of paintings and drawings that
show rustic figures clustered around the open door of a cottage set in a deeply wooded landscape. Often seen as exemplars of the rural idyll, these works were among the first
landscape paintings to reflect the eighteenth-century aesthetic of sensibility. As a way of seeing, sensibility valued nature for its innocence and simplicity, and images, such as
Gainsborough's cottage subjects, for their power to move the viewer.
This lovely book brings together the cottage door paintings and essays that discuss Gainsborough's
departure from the more naturalistic style of his earlier career and that place his new concern with sentimentalism and artificiality in the context of sensibility and the growing interest in
expressive, even sensational, visual spectacles. To this end contributors to the volume investigate new viewing practices associated with sensibility, the meaning of the cottage for
Gainsborough and his contemporaries, the artist's creation of affecting landscapes through the use of peasant subjects, and his theatrical treatment of these subjects in order to
heighten his viewers' emotional responses. Exhibition schedule: Yale Center for British Art, October 6-December 2005.
Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical
Gardens, February 11- May 2006