Cottage Children (The Wood Gatherers), 1787. Thomas Gainsborough. Oil on canvas. Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950.
Well-to-do art collectors of the eighteenth century enjoyed "fancy pictures" such as this, which provided an idealized and sentimental image of poor children. A visitor to Gainsborough’s studio described the three children shown here as "charming little objects [who] cannot be viewed without the sensations of tenderness and pleasure, and an interest for their humble fate." The model for the pensive boy seated with a bundle of kindling is believed to have been Jack Hill, a local boy whom Gainsborough’s daughter considered adopting.