This painting is a treasured example of a new type of British landscape painting invented by Thomas Gainsborough. The artist shows figures on horseback near the brow of a hill at the break of day, outlined against a misty sky. At the front of the group is a beautiful girl, riding sidesaddle, and a young man, both of whom have baskets of farm products to sell—eggs nestled in straw. Seated beside a stream, a poor woman with two children looks up at the passing riders. Gainsborough was born in the countryside but trained in London before settling in the fashionable city of Bath, where he was acclaimed, along with Sir Joshua Reynolds, as the leading British portrait painter of the age. At the same time, however, he pursued his passion for landscape painting, and in the last decades of his life, working through observation and memory, created imaginative compositions that appeal to the viewer’s sentiments.
Gainsborough’s early works were inspired by the old masters—the naturalistic landscapes of Dutch painters such as Jacob van Ruisdael, the vibrant color and fluent brushwork of Peter Paul Rubens, and the captivating Italianate light effects of Claude Lorrain. In his maturity, he worked on a large scale and introduced a modern element to the landscape: the contemporary social life of the countryside, observed firsthand. In Going to Market, the girl’s auburn ringlets and fine necklace might seem romanticized but may have been donned to attract customers. The shadowy riders in the background fit descriptions of colliers carrying sacks of coal by pack pony from coalfields nearby. In this magical picture, Gainsborough has reimagined the classical landscape tradition, enriching its dreamlike serenity with the vivid life-force of the English countryside.
Purchased from the artist by Henry Hoare [1705–1785], Stourhead, Wiltshire, U.K., 1773;
by descent to his grandson, Sir Richard Colt Hoare, 2nd Bt [1758–1838];
thence by descent in the Hoare family at Stourhead;
(Stourhead Heirlooms sale, Christie’s, London, 2 June 1883, lot 16);
purchased through his brother-in-law George Martin by Thomas Holloway [1800–1883], Tittenhurst Park in Sunninghill, Berkshire, for Royal Holloway College, London;
purchased by private collection, 1993;
(Old Masters Evening sale, Sotheby’s, London, 3 July 2019, lot 22);
purchased by private collection;
purchased (through Simon Dickinson Ltd., London) by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 2023.