Sensation and Sensibility

Viewing Gainsborough's "Cottage Door"

Edited by Ann Bermingham

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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.

Ann Bermingham is professor of the history of art and architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the author of Learning to Draw, published by Yale University Press.


Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (February 11 – May 14, 2006)

Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (October 6 – December 31, 2005)

"...invaluable...original...[a] sumptuous volume." - Byron Ireland, Day by Day, Spring 2006

ISBN: 9780300110029
Publication Date: October 20, 2005
Publishing Partner: Published in association with the Yale Center for British Art and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
208 pages, 9 x 11
30 b/w + 100 color illus.
Learning to Draw

Studies in the Cultural History of a Polite and Useful Art

Ann Bermingham

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