Thomas Gainsborough, society portraitist and landscape painter, worked predominantly in oil, not watercolour. But Gainsborough was an important pioneer, giving popular pictorial expression to contemporary English rustic landscape. In fact, what today seem typically English motifs - church spires and cottages peeping from among trees - were inspired by Dutch 17th-century landscape paintings.

It was Gainsborough's 'Cottage Door' scenes which particularly appealed to patrons, with their attractive peasants gathered round a cottage door, deep within a wooded glade; an English echo of the classical poetic tradition of a retired life in the country. The poet, Oliver Goldsmith, echoed this nostalgia in the 'Deserted Village', his lament of 1770 for a fading way of life, 'The shelter'd cot [cottage] ... the decent church that topt the neighbouring hill'.