Greatest among his early landscapes, this picture is so identified with Gainsborough that it is often called Gainsborough's Forest. Probably begun during his Sudbury school days, when he was about 13, and finished or repainted in 1748, when he was 21 and had just returned to Suffolk from London, the scene summarises all his youthful preoccupations and developing abilities.
Like the modest Dutch landscapes so popular in Suffolk homes during Gainsborough's boyhood, every detail is painted with meticulous care, leaves of the nearer trees are shown individually, and the blades of grass, clumps of weeds and lichen on the tree trunks are all minutely delineated. Cornard Wood, however, is not a slavish copying of nature. The painting does not represent any particular place - the objects and people that form the composition came from Gainsborough's sketches or his remarkable visual memory. Gainsborough never let realism interfere with his compositions, rather it is a loving celebration of a specific place at a moment in time.