The Market Cart Thomas Gainsborough Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Market Cart by Thomas Gainsborough shows the image of rural English in the late 18th century. The painting has the image of a family carried on a cart that is pulled by a horse along a tree-lined path cutting across the diagonals of the canvas. The cart carries only the mother and child while the man, a toddler boy and their dog walk alongside the cart.

The tall oak trees and a silvery sky gives the scene a peaceful appearance of a day that is about to end. The family could most probably have come from the market where they may have taken their farm goods for sale. The painting is a representation of the farming community in the rural English who mostly depended on markets. Thomas Gainsborough painted the market cart in 1786 but he later added an image of a woodcutter collecting faggots on the right side of the painting beneath the trees. The market cart was first displayed in his home in Pall Mall the same year it was painted. The original market cart painting is still displayed in room 34 of the National Gallery, London where it was presented by the British institution's governors in 1830. The paintings has a dimension of 184 centimetres height and 153 centimetres width.

The painter, Thomas Gainsborough must have been inspired into painting by his mother. The mother was a talented painter and she was an encouragement to her son in the love for art.Young Gainsborough started painting images of trees and cottages in his neighbourhood and filled his school books with artistic drawings. The artist would later go to study in London where he met Hayman, a historical painter. His paintings are said to have a display of grace and a great power of insight. The uniqueness of the drawings enabled Thomas defeat Reynolds and become the greatest painter of the English school.

The market cart painting is very significant as it was painted during the agricultural revolution in England. It is at this time that people started new farming methods such as crop rotation and use of better machinery to increase production. Farmers would later sell their produce in the market as it is the case in the family portrayed by the painting. The addition of a wood cutter to the image was also a way of showing how male labourers made a living through back breaking activities such as mowing and cutting wood with a compensation in the form of shelter, clothing and food.