Thomas Gainsborough’s prints, like the paintings and drawings for which he is better known, reflect the artist’s lifelong fascination with techniques and materials. Although not a prolific printmaker, he played an important role in the development of the processes of aquatint and soft-ground etching in the late eighteenth century. This book, a companion volume to Mr. Hayes’s The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, enables us to assess Gainsborough’s achievement as a printmaker and sheds new light on his total work.
Except for some early etchings and projected engravings, Gainsborough turned to printmaking solely as a means of reproducing his drawings. This step, unprecedented for a first-rank artist, explains the close connection between his print style and his drawing style, and establishes the basis for an accurate chronology of the prints. The originality and power of his last aquatints anticipate a rich tradition in British printmaking which includes the work of Blake, Constable and Turner.
Mr Hayes’s important study contains a perceptive essay and the first complete catalogue raisonné of all Gainsborough’s prints. Each state of every print is reproduced, as well as drawings by Gainsborough and prints by his contemporaries.