This is Gainsborough House
In the 1890s the property was purchased by a builder and parts of it were sold off. The warehouse, used for storing cloth, now a restaurant, was sold and part of the extensive garden was developed as a silk factory. Gainsborough's House was established as a museum in 1961 and shows a large collection of Gainsborough's paintings, drawings and prints as well as temporary exhibitions.
I've seen some of Gainsborough's landscapes before; but never realised that many of them are of fictitious places. I assumed he would go somewhere into the countryside and sketch; it seems much of his work was done by making small scenes at home...as the guide put it "using broccoli as trees and other vegetables as part of the scenery" and sketching from that. This is a model of a horse he once did....and would subsequently use in a scene and from there a painting.
This is why some of his paintings are just called things like "Conversation in a park" or "Cattle on a bridge". It seems he also used many of the same characters in different paintings. The woodcutter was one person that is seen in a few of his paintings; when he knew he was dying from throat cancer Gainsborough heard the story of a woodcutter who being really tired threw his bundle of wood to the ground and shouted "Death take me" (or words to that effect). So Death appeared and asked if he'd called him. The woodcutter realising his mistake in uttering the words said "Oh I just needed some help carrying the wood"...so Death helped the woodcutter, went on his way and the woodcutter escaped Death. So Gainsborough portrays the woodcutter a lot as his way of defying Death.
After a brief coffee/juice break the children had a chance to ask questions and answer questions (on what they had learnt during the visit) ....................
Of course there is much more to the life and times of Thomas Gainsborough than we had time to learn today but at least I feel I know a little more about the life of the man whose statue I pass every time I go into town.