‘Going to Market, Early Morning’ by Thomas Gainsborough.jpg
‘Going to Market, Early Morning’ by Thomas Gainsborough. The 48 x 58in (122 x 147cm) oil painting is the subject of an export bar.

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Going to Market, Early Morning was painted in 1773 and is valued at £8m. It was bought at a Sotheby’s auction in July 2019.

Arts minister Helen Whately said: “Gainsborough is one of the greatest British landscape artists and his works still wows audiences more than 250 years later. This piece is a superb example and I hope that a UK buyer can be found.”

The minister’s decision follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA). The committee agreed that the work was a brilliant example of Gainsborough’s finest work, and that the work’s unbroken provenance was extremely rare.

Importance and significance

Committee member Christopher Baker, said: “Gainsborough is chiefly known as a refined portrait painter, but he also composed idyllic, rural scenes and Going to Market, Early Morning is one of his greatest achievements in this genre. 

“With engaging figures and exquisitely modulated silvery light, it subtly displays his knowledge of 17th century European art and is a delightful, lyrical, escapist image. It has been justly celebrated through a number of high-profile exhibitions and collections from the time it was painted in the 1770s in Bath.”

The RCEWA made its recommendation on the grounds of the painting’s outstanding aesthetic importance and its significance for the study of Gainsborough’s relationships with his patrons and with landscape art. 

The decision on the export licence application for the painting will be deferred until March 22. This may be extended until September 22 if a serious intention to raise is made at the recommended price of £7.96m plus £234,200 VAT.

Favourite painter

Gainsborough trained in London and was a founder member of the Royal Academy, later becoming a favourite painter of King George III. Along with Richard Wilson, Gainsborough is credited as the originator of the British landscape school of the 18th century. 

Going to Market, Early Morning was paid for by its original owner, Henry Hoare (1705-85), in July 1773, presumably shortly after it was completed. It was passed on by descent until it was sold in a Christie’s sale called Stourhead Heirlooms on June 2, 1883. It was acquired by Thomas Holloway (1800-83) for the Royal Holloway College London and then sold again in October 1993 before being bought by its current owner at Sotheby’s last year.