Thomas Gainsborough FRSA (14 May 1727 (baptised) – 2 August 1788) was an English portrait and landscape painter, draughtsman, and printmaker. Along with his bitter rival Sir Joshua Reynolds, he is considered one of the most important British portrait artists of the second half of the 18th century. He painted quickly, and the works of his maturity are characterised by a light palette and easy strokes. Despite being a prolific portrait painter, Gainsborough gained greater satisfaction from his landscapes. He is credited (with Richard Wilson) as the originator of the 18th-century British landscape school. Gainsborough was a founding member of the Royal Academy.
14 May 1727 (baptised)
|Died||2 August 1788 (aged 61)|
|Mr and Mrs Andrews|
The Blue Boy
He was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods, and his wife, the sister of the Reverend Humphry Burroughs. One of Gainsborough's brothers, Humphrey, had a faculty for mechanics and was said to have invented the method of condensing steam in a separate vessel, which was of great service to James Watt; another brother, John, was known as Scheming Jack because of his passion for designing curiosities.
The artist spent his childhood at what is now Gainsborough's House, on Gainsborough Street. He later resided there, following the death of his father in 1748 and before his move to Ipswich. The original building still survives and is now a house dedicated to his life and art.
When he was still a boy he impressed his father with his drawing and painting skills, and he almost certainly had painted heads and small landscapes by the time he was ten years old, including a miniature self-portrait. Gainsborough was allowed to leave home in 1740 to study art in London, where he trained under engraver Hubert Gravelot but became associated with William Hogarth and his school. He assisted Francis Hayman in the decoration of the supper boxes at Vauxhall Gardens, and contributed to the decoration of what is now the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children.
In 1746, Gainsborough married Margaret Burr, an illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, who settled a £200 annuity on them. The artist's work, then mostly consisting of landscape paintings, was not selling well. He returned to Sudbury in 1748–1749 and concentrated on painting portraits.
In 1752, he and his family, now including two daughters, moved to Ipswich. Commissions for personal portraits increased, but his clientele included mainly local merchants and squires. He had to borrow against his wife's annuity. Towards the end of his time in Ipswich, he painted a self-portrait, which is now in the permanent collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
In 1759, Gainsborough and his family moved to Bath, living at number 17 The Circus. There, he studied portraits by van Dyck and was eventually able to attract a fashionable clientele. In 1761, he began to send work to the Society of Arts exhibition in London (now the Royal Society of Arts, of which he was one of the earliest members); and from 1769 he submitted works to the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions. He selected portraits of well-known or notorious clients in order to attract attention. The exhibitions helped him acquire a national reputation, and he was invited to become a founding member of the Royal Academy in 1769. His relationship with the academy was not an easy one and he stopped exhibiting his paintings in 1773.
In 1774, Gainsborough and his family moved to London to live in Schomberg House, Pall Mall. A commemorative blue plaque was put on the house in 1951. In 1777, he again began to exhibit his paintings at the Royal Academy, including portraits of contemporary celebrities, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. Exhibitions of his work continued for the next six years. About this time, Gainsborough began experimenting with printmaking using the then-novel techniques of aquatint and soft-ground etching.
During the 1770s and 1780s Gainsborough developed a type of portrait in which he integrated the sitter into the landscape. An example of this is his portrait of Frances Browne, Mrs John Douglas (1746–1811) which can be seen at Waddesdon Manor. The sitter has withdrawn to a secluded and overgrown corner of a garden to read a letter, her pose recalling the traditional representation of Melancholy. Gainsborough emphasised the relationship between Mrs Douglas and her environment by painting the clouds behind her and the drapery billowing across her lap with similar silvery mauves and fluid brushstrokes. This portrait was included in his first private exhibition at Schomberg House in 1784.
In 1776, Gainsborough painted a portrait of Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach's former teacher Padre Martini of Bologna, Italy, was assembling a collection of portraits of musicians, and Bach asked Gainsborough to paint his portrait as part of this collection. The portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
In 1780, he painted the portraits of King George III and his queen and afterwards received many royal commissions. This gave him some influence with the Academy and allowed him to dictate the manner in which he wished his work to be exhibited. However, in 1783, he removed his paintings from the forthcoming exhibition and transferred them to Schomberg House.
In 1784, royal painter Allan Ramsay died and the King was obliged to give the job to Gainsborough's rival and Academy president, Joshua Reynolds. Gainsborough remained the Royal Family's favorite painter, however.
In his later years, Gainsborough often painted relatively simple, ordinary landscapes. With Richard Wilson, he was one of the originators of the eighteenth-century British landscape school; though simultaneously, in conjunction with Reynolds, he was the dominant British portraitist of the second half of the 18th century.
William Jackson in his contemporary essays said of him "to his intimate friends he was sincere and honest and that his heart was always alive to every feeling of honour and generosity". Gainsborough did not particularly enjoy reading but letters written to his friends were penned in such an exceptional conversational manner that the style could not be equalled. As a letter writer Henry Bate-Dudley said of him "a selection of his letters would offer the world as much originality and beauty as is ever traced in his paintings".
In the 1780s, Gainsborough used a device he called a "Showbox" to compose landscapes and display them backlit on glass. The original box is on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum with a reproduction transparency.
He died of cancer on 2 August 1788 at the age of 61. According to his daughter Peggy, his last words were "van Dyck". He is interred in the churchyard St. Anne's Church, Kew, Surrey, (located on Kew Green). It was his express wish to be buried near his friend Joshua Kirby. Later his wife and nephew, Gainsborough Dupont, were interred with him. Coincidentally Johan Zoffany and Franz Bauer are also buried in the graveyard. As of 2011, an appeal is underway to pay the costs of restoration of his tomb. A street in Kew, Gainsborough Road, is named after him.
The art historian Michael Rosenthal described Gainsborough as "one of the most technically proficient and, at the same time, most experimental artists of his time". He was noted for the speed with which he applied paint, and he worked more from observations of nature (and of human nature) than from application of formal academic rules. The poetic sensibility of his paintings caused Constable to say, "On looking at them, we find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them."
Gainsborough's enthusiasm for landscapes is shown in the way he merged figures of the portraits with the scenes behind them. He said, "I am sick of portraits and wish very much to take my viol-da-gam and walk off to some sweet village, where I can paint landskips (sic) and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness & ease." His landscapes were often painted at night by candlelight, using a tabletop arrangement of stones, pieces of mirrors, broccoli, and the like as a model. His later work was characterised by a light palette and easy, economical strokes.
His most famous works, Portrait of Mrs. Graham; Mary and Margaret: The Painter's Daughters; William Hallett and His Wife Elizabeth, nee Stephen, known as The Morning Walk; and Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, display the unique individuality of his subjects. Joshua Reynolds considered Girl with Pigs "the best picture he (Gainsborough) ever painted or perhaps ever will".
Gainsborough's works became popular with collectors from the 1850s on, after Lionel de Rothschild began buying his portraits. The rapid rise in the value of pictures by Gainsborough and also by Reynolds in the mid 19th century was partly because the Rothschild family, including Ferdinand de Rothschild began collecting them.
In 2011, Gainsborough's portrait of Miss Read (Mrs Frances Villebois) was sold by Michael Pearson, 4th Viscount Cowdray, for a record price of £6.5M. She was a matrilineal descendant of Cecily Neville, Duchess of York.
Events from the year 1759 in art.Abbas Hall
Abbas Hall is a small country house in Great Cornard, a village located near the town of Sudbury, Suffolk in England, the Elizabethan exterior of which masks a medieval two-bay aisled hall of c.1290, from which two massive oak posts with moulded capitals and two arches of the screens passage survive. The inserted floor in the great hall was put in about 1548–49. The house was originally the house of West Malling Abbey's manorial steward here. The house, from the grounds of which Thomas Gainsborough painted his celebrated view of Great Cornard Wood, was restored by the present owner, Stefan Kosciuszko, Chief of Staff Hinduja Group, and chief executive AMAS-IPS, the project development company for the Group, after 1995.Bergère hat
A bergère (French for shepherdess) hat is a flat-brimmed straw hat with a shallow crown, usually trimmed with ribbon and flowers. It could be worn in various ways with the brim folded back or turned up or down at whim. It is also sometimes called a milkmaid hat. It was widely worn in the mid-18th century, and versions may be seen in many British and French paintings of the period, such as The Swing by Fragonard, and in portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Johann Zoffany, amongst others. It has been suggested that the hat was named after Madame Bergeret, who is holding a shepherdess-style hat in a Boucher portrait painted c.1766.A nineteenth century version of the bergère hat formed part of the Dolly Varden ensembles popular in the early 1870s, as summed up in Alfred Lee's novelty song Dolly Varden (published Cleveland, 1872) which contains the lyrics: Have you seen my little girl? She doesn’t wear a bonnet/ She’s got a monstrous flip-flop hat with cherry ribbons on it.Gainsborough's House
Gainsborough's House is the birthplace of the leading English painter Thomas Gainsborough. It is now a museum and gallery, located at 46 Gainsborough Street in Sudbury, Suffolk, England. Some of the pictures on display have been acquired with the help of the Art Fund.Gainsborough (crater)
Gainsborough is a crater on Mercury. It has a diameter of 95 kilometers. Its name was adopted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1985. Gainsborough is named for the English painter Thomas Gainsborough, who lived from 1727 to 1788.Gainsborough Dupont
Gainsborough Dupont (20 December 1754 Sudbury–1797 London) was a British artist, the nephew and pupil of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A..Kitty (1945 film)
Kitty is a 1945 film, a costume drama set in London during the 1780s, directed by Mitchell Leisen, based on the novel of the same name by Rosamond Marshall (published in 1943), with a screenplay by Karl Tunberg. It stars Paulette Goddard, Ray Milland, Constance Collier, Patric Knowles, Reginald Owen, and Cecil Kellaway as the English painter Thomas Gainsborough. In a broad interpretation of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion story line, the film tells the rags-to-riches story of a young guttersnipe, cockney girl.Lowe Art Museum
The Lowe Art Museum is an art museum located in Coral Gables, Florida, a Miami suburb in Miami-Dade County. It opened in 1950 and is operated by the University of Miami. It was originally established by a gift from philanthropists Joe and Emily Lowe. At the time it opened, it was the first art museum in South Florida. The museum has an extensive collection of art with permanent collections in Greco-Roman antiquities, Renaissance, Baroque, 17th- and 19th-century European art, 19th-century American art, and modern art. The museum's national and international works come from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Native America, Ancient Americas, and the Pacific Islands. It also has a large collection of glassworks including creations by Arneson, Jun Kaneko ("Dango"),and Christine Federighi ("Globe"). There are also glassworks by Pablo Picasso, William Morris, Emily Brock, Harvey Littleton, Erwin Fisch, and Ginny Ruffner in the permanent collection.
The permanent collection includes works by: Lippo Vanni, Sano di Pietro, Lorenzo di Bicci, Lorenzo di Credi, Vincenzo Catena, Francesco Bacchiacca, Bernardino Fungai, Adrian Isenbrandt, Jacob Jordaens, Jusepe de Ribera, El Greco, Francisco Goya, Thomas Gainsborough, Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Frank Stella, Knox Martin, and Duane Hanson. There are also Modern works of Art by Roy Lichtenstein, Sandy Skoglund, Purvis Young, Louise Nevelson, and Enrique Montenegro in the permanent collection.
The Lowe Art Museum is served by the Miami Metrorail at the University Station.Michael Rosenthal
Michael J. Rosenthal (born 1950) is emeritus professor of the history of art at the University of Warwick. He is a specialist both in British art and culture of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the arts of early colonial Australia.Mr and Mrs Andrews
Mr and Mrs Andrews is an oil on canvas portrait of about 1750 by Thomas Gainsborough, now in the National Gallery, London. Today it is one of his most famous works, but it remained in the family of the sitters until 1960 and was very little known before it appeared in an exhibition in Ipswich in 1927, after which it was regularly requested for other exhibitions in Britain and abroad, and praised by critics for its charm and freshness. By the post-war years its iconic status was established, and it was one of four paintings chosen to represent British art in an exhibition in Paris celebrating the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Soon the painting began to receive hostile scrutiny as a paradigm of the paternalist and capitalist society of 18th-century England, but it remains a firm popular favourite.The work is an unusual combination of two common types of painting of the period: a double portrait, here of a recently married couple, and a landscape view of the English countryside. Gainsborough's work mainly consisted of these two different genres, but their striking combination side-by-side in this extended horizontal format is unique in Gainsborough's oeuvre, and extremely rare in other painters. Conversation piece was the term for a portrait group that contained other elements and activities, but these normally showed more figures, set engaged in some activity or in an interior, rather than a landscape empty of people.
Gainsborough was later famously given to complaining that well-paid portrait work kept him away from his true love of landscape painting, and his interest probably combined with that of his clients, a couple from two families whose main income was probably not from landowning, to make a more prominent display than was normal in a portrait of the country estate that had formed part of Mrs Andrews' dowry.Mr and Mrs William Hallett
Mr and Mrs William Hallett is a 1785 painting by Thomas Gainsborough in the collection of the National Gallery, London (NG 6209). It is popularly known as The Morning Walk. The painting was attacked by a man with a sharp object on 18 March 2017.Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (painting)
Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1787) is an oil on canvas portrait painted by Thomas Gainsborough between 1785 and 1787. It was acquired by the National Gallery of Art in 1937. Mrs. Sheridan (Elizabeth Ann Linley) was a talented musician who enjoyed professional success in Bath and London before marrying Richard Brinsley Sheridan in 1773 and abandoning her career. She was 31 when she sat for Gainsborough, dying from tuberculosis seven years later at the age of thirty-eight. The portrait was painted between 1785 and 1787, and, was exhibited at Gainsborough's studio at Schomberg House, Pall Mall in 1786.Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire is a painting by the English painter Thomas Gainsborough of the political hostess Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. Its construction took place sometime between 1785 and 1787.Sudbury, Suffolk
Sudbury (, locally ) is a small market town in the English county of Suffolk. It is located on the River Stour near the Essex border, and is 60 miles (97 km) north-east of London. At the 2011 census, the parish has a population of 13,063, rising to 21,971 including the adjoining parish of Great Cornard. It is the largest town of Babergh district council, the local government district, and is represented in the UK Parliament as part of the South Suffolk constituency.
Evidence of Sudbury as a settlement originates from the end of the 8th century during the Anglo-Saxon era, and its market was established in the early 11th century. Its textile industries prospered during the Late Middle Ages; the wealth of which funded many of its buildings and churches. The town became notable for its art in the 18th century, being the birthplace of Thomas Gainsborough, whose landscapes offered inspiration to John Constable, another Suffolk painter of the surrounding Stour Valley area. The 19th century saw the arrival of the railway with the opening of a station on the historic Stour Valley Railway, and Sudbury railway station forms the current terminus of the Gainsborough Line. During World War II, US Army Airforce bombers operated from RAF Sudbury.
Today, Sudbury retains its status as a market town with a twice-weekly market in the town centre in front of St Peter's Church, which is now a local community point for events such as concerts and exhibitions. In sport, the town has a semi-professional football club, A.F.C. Sudbury, which competes at the seventh level of the football pyramid.The Blue Boy
The Blue Boy (1779) is a full-length portrait in oil by Thomas Gainsborough, now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.The Seasons (Thomson)
The Seasons is a series of four poems written by the Scottish author James Thomson. The first part, Winter, was published in 1726, and the completed poem cycle appeared in 1730.The poem was extremely influential, and stimulated works by John Christopher Smith, Joseph Haydn, Thomas Gainsborough and J. M. W. Turner among many others.Thomas Gainsborough School
Thomas Gainsborough School, formerly Great Cornard Upper School, is a secondary school and sixth form in the village of Great Cornard, located near the town of Sudbury in the English county of Suffolk that educates approximately 1,250 pupils.It was granted the status of Specialist School in 1998, and was re-designated Technology College in 2001. The school converted to academy status in January 2015, when it became a member of the Samuel Ward Academy Trust.Thurston Community College
Thurston Community College (commonly abbreviated TCC) is a co-educational secondary school and sixth form located in Thurston, Suffolk, England.
Constructed in the 1970s, it has 1,733 students aged 11–18 drawn from the local village and surrounding rural communities. Facilities include a community library, a large sixth form centre (based in Beyton) and an Air Training Corps building. It has a total staff of around 170. The school's 5 houses are named after famous British people with Suffolk connections, including Thomas Gainsborough, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Thomas Wolsey and Roger Penrose. In its most recent Ofsted inspection report in 2018, the school was rated Good. The school has been rated Good every inspection except for in 2010 when the school was rated outstanding.Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman Seated
Wooded Landscape with a Herdsman Seated is an oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough, from 1748.
It is in the collection of Gainsborough's House.