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Sudbury exhibition will feature two Gainsborough masterpieces





Two masterpieces by Thomas Gainsborough are being exhibited in his childhood home of Sudbury for the first time.

The two paintings, which date back to 1755, are the centrepiece of a new exhibition at Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, entitled the Legacy of Landscape: Masterpieces from Woburn Abbey.

They will be displayed from Saturday until June 11, alongside a series of earlier landscape masterpieces from the Woburn Abbey collection.

One of Aelbert Cuyp’s paintings from the Legacy of Landscape exhibition. Picture: Gainsborough’s House
One of Aelbert Cuyp’s paintings from the Legacy of Landscape exhibition. Picture: Gainsborough’s House

Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said: “This is an important moment for Gainsborough’s House, to welcome one of the great landscape collections for exhibition.

“It is particularly significant for us because it has Gainsborough at its heart.

“I know that the wonderful connections that the exhibition makes will open people’s eyes to landscapes and their depiction by some of the world’s greatest artists.”

The two paintings were originally bought by John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford, for £21 and 15 guineas, a price reflective of how early in Gainsborough’s career they were purchased.

Also included in the exhibition are 17th century Dutch and Flemish landscape paintings, which had a profound influence on Gainsborough.

Work by Aelbert Cuyp (1620-91) and Paulus Potter (1625-54) is represented, together with a major classical landscape by seventeenth century French artist Claude Lorrain (1600-82), whose paintings inspired Gainsborough’s later landscapes.

The exhibition not only displays work that inspired Gainsborough, but also the school of British landscape painting that Gainsborough was pivotal in influencing.

Work by Frederick Richard Lee (1798-1879), Sir Augustus Wall Callcott (1779-1844) and Richard Parkes Bonington (1802-28) will be shown alongside one of Sir Edwin Landseer’s (1802-1873) greatest landscape paintings, Deer in Coldbath Fields (c1835).

The accompanying exhibition catalogue has two essays, which explore, in turn, the influence of Dutch landscapes on Gainsborough’s painting and the patronage of landscape painting by John, the 6th Duke of Bedford.

The exhibition arose from a major restoration project at Woburn Abbey. Drawn from the rich collection, it has been conceived by the curators at Woburn Abbey, drawing on the great passion for landscape painting that has become an indelible part of the English psyche.

Matthew Hirst, curator at Woburn Abbey, said: “The opportunity to explore these subjects and bring together familiar masterpieces with a new lens is made possible by the temporary closure of Woburn Abbey to enable a generational investment in its fabric and infrastructure.

“It is hugely fitting that the exhibition will take place at the recently redeveloped Gainsborough’s House, a National Centre for Thomas Gainsborough.

“From the new building, the landscape that Gainsborough painted is visible and this exhibition and its exploration of landscape painting is an opportunity to see how Gainsborough was central to the landscape tradition.”