Thomas Gainsborough – English 1727-1788

Thomas Gainsborough, Self Portrait 1787
Self Portrait, 1787
Thomas Gainsborough was an English painter who is considered one of the great masters of portraiture and landscape.

Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, on May 14, 1727. He showed artistic ability at an early age, and when he was 15 years old he studied drawing and etching in London with the French engraver Hubert Gravelot. Later he studied painting with Francis Hayman, a painter of historical events. Through Gravelot, who had been a pupil of the great French painter Antoine Watteau, Gainsborough came under Watteau's influence. Later he was also influenced by the painters of the Dutch school and by the Flemish painter Sir Anthony van Dyck. From 1745 to 1760 Gainsborough lived and worked in Ipswich. From 1760 to 1774 he lived in Bath, a fashionable health resort, where he painted numerous portraits and landscapes. In 1768 he was elected one of the original members of the Royal Academy of Arts; and in 1774 he painted, by royal invitation, portraits of King George III and the queen consort, Charlotte Sophia. Gainsborough settled in London the same year. He was the favorite painter of the British aristocracy, becoming wealthy through commissions for portraits. Gainsborough died in London on August 2, 1788.

Gainsborough executed more than 500 paintings, of which more than 200 are portraits. His portraits are characterized by the noble and refined grace of the figures, by poetic charm, and by cool and fresh colors, chiefly greens and blues, thinly applied. Among his world-famous portraits are Orpin, the Parish Clerk (Tate Gallery, London); The Baillie Family (1784) and Mrs. Siddons (1785), both in the National Gallery, London; Perdita Robinson (1781, Wallace Collection, London); The Hon. Francis Duncombe (1777?, Frick Collection, New York City); Mrs. Tenant (1786-1787, Metropolitan Museum, New York City); and many in private collections, including The Blue Boy (1779?, Huntington Collection, San Marino, California). His portrait Mr. and Mrs. Andrews (1750?, National Gallery, London) is unusually balanced between portrait and landscape painting.

The effect of poetic melancholy induced by faint lighting characterizes Gainsborough's paintings. He was obviously influenced by Dutch 17th-century landscape painting. Forest scenes, or rough and broken country, are the usual subjects of his landscapes, most notably Cornard Wood (1748) and The Watering Place (1777?), both in the National Gallery, London. Gainsborough also executed many memorable drawings and etchings. © Microsoft® Encarta '97


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Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman 0 by Benedict Leca (Editor) – Hardcover: 196 pages; Publisher: GILES (November 3, 2010)

Focusing specifically on Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of well-known, “liberated”, society women, Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman draws us away from his predominant reputation as a landscape painter. It shows how such portraits were both an affirmation by Gainsborough of his own position in the artistic world of Georgian England, and of the desire of his famous, and often notorious, sitters to be seen as self-assured progressive women.

Thomas Gainsborough (British Artists) by Martin Postle – Paperback: 80 pages Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 6, 2003)

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), admired for his grand society portraits and sumptuous pastoral landscapes, is the most perennially popular of British artists. In his life as in his art, Gainsborough sought to project an image of effortless accomplishment, demonstrated by a dazzling painting technique and immense personal charm. He was also competitive, opinionated, and financially astute. Because he was among the most innovative and enigmatic artists of his age, the true nature of his achievement is at once greatly appreciated and insufficiently understood.

This illustrated introduction to the artist and his work traces Gainsborough's career from his boyhood in rural Suffolk to the pinnacle of commercial success at the court of George III. Martin Postle examines the tremendous impact on Gainsborough's career of the Royal Academy and the Court of St. James. Postle also reassesses the artist's attitudes toward the central aspects of his art: portraiture (which he called his profession) and landscape (which he called his pleasure). While revealing Gainsborough in the light of his own day, this attractive book also highlights the timelessness of his work--the celebrated brushwork, lyrical composition, and almost miraculous use of color.

Thomas Gainsborough by Martin Myrone (Editor), Michael Rosenthal (Editor) – Hardcover: 272 pages Publisher: Harry N Abrams (March 1, 2003)

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was one of the masters of 18th-century art. This stunning book, published to accompany a major international exhibition, covering the artist's entire career, reveals the sheer range, quality, and originality of Gainsborough's work, from his engagingly naturalistic landscapes and touching images of children to his sophisticated and glamorous society portraits.

In their revealing essay, Michael Rosenthal and Martin Myrone explore Gainsborough's dynamic involvement with the social world of his day, while other essays explore his subtle approach to the lucrative world of fashionable portraiture and the often pointed social commentary behind his seductive landscapes. This volume provides new and refreshing insights into Gainsborough as an artist who succeeded in creating an experimental and modern art for his own time, and whose works remain vital and rewarding today.

The English Masters: Gainsborough (1996)
Color, Dolby, NTSC
DVD Release Date: August 29, 2006
Run Time: 50 minutes


The English Masters Boxed Set featuring Gainsborough, Blake, Reynolds, Constable, Hogarth, Turner

Possibly the greatest-ever English portraitist and landscape artist of 18th century England, Thomas Gainsborough had undoubtedly the most famous individual image. The celebrated Blue Boy is just one of hundreds of powerfully impressive images created by Gainsborough. By the middle of his life, he was a master at depicting the men, women and children of his day, and his genius made him a wealthy man. However, Gainsborough’s real passion was landscape painting and he worked in both genres throughout his life. The Fancy Pictures created towards the end of his career, were a result of combining landscape and portraiture, which are now seen by many as his greatest achievement.

This fascinating program includes all new location footage including visits to Gainsborough’s houses in Sudbury, Suffolk, Bath and inspirational London locations, re-creations and reconstructions, studies of the great works and commentaries and analyses from leading authorities, art historians and scholars.

The Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough by Malcolm Cormack – Paperback: 198 pages Publisher: Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition (February 26, 1993)

This is the first introduction to the art and life of Thomas Gainsborough to appear for many years. Gainsborough has long been an attractive and popular figure in the history of English art, but this book shows that he was more than the well-known painter of The Blue Boy and the perennial rival to Joshua Reynolds. His role as a prototype for the modern idea of "the artist as Romantic" is discussed, while his deep knowledge of the art of the past is revealed to demonstrate his eclectic yet individual reworking of older styles. An introduction and seventy-five carefully selected paintings and drawings explain Gainsborough's life and art and his important role in the development of an independent English school. Both text and illustrations provide a unique up-to-date and perceptive survey that will be of interest to the scholar and general reader alike.

Gainsborough (World of Art) by William Vaughan – Paperback: 224 pages Publisher: Thames & Hudson (June 1, 2002)

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is one of the most appealing English artists of the eighteenth century. Renowned for such elegant portraits as The Blue Boy and Countess Howe, he also pioneered a new form of landscape with a moody sensibility that prefigured the Romantic movement. A brilliant draftsman, his art is full of inventiveness and visual delight. Drawing upon recently discovered material, William Vaughan provides a fresh perspective on both the life and art of this master. He shows how closely Gainsborough's innovative manner can be connected to social and political developments in Britain, in particular the celebration of original genius in a time of burgeoning entrepreneurial commercialism. Above all, he demonstrates how, beneath the artist's charm, there lay a bedrock of shrewd observation and pictorial intelligence that gives his work a value for all time. 176 illustrations, 61 in color.

Best Loved Paintings: Pinkie and Blue Boy by Robert R. Wark – Hardcover: 80 pages Publisher: Huntington Library Press; 1 Hardcover edition (February 22, 1998)

This handsome gift volume reveals the stories behind the Huntington's best-known paintings, The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough and Pinkie by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Who were the children in these paintings and why did these leading artists choose them as subjects? Wark, retired curator of the Huntington art collections, answers a number of questions about these famous paintings.

Sensation and Sensibility: Viewing Gainsborough's "Cottage Door" by Ann Bermingham (Editor) – Hardcover: 208 pages Publisher: Yale University Press (October 20, 2005)

Late in his career Thomas Gainsborough became preoccupied with the theme of the cottage door, and he created a group of paintings and drawings that show rustic figures clustered around the open door of a cottage set in a deeply wooded landscape. Often seen as exemplars of the rural idyll, these works were among the first landscape paintings to reflect the eighteenth-century aesthetic of sensibility. As a way of seeing, sensibility valued nature for its innocence and simplicity, and images, such as Gainsborough’s cottage subjects, for their power to move the viewer.

This lovely book brings together the cottage door paintings and essays that discuss Gainsborough’s departure from the more naturalistic style of his earlier career and that place his new concern with sentimentalism and artificiality in the context of sensibility and the growing interest in expressive, even sensational, visual spectacles. To this end, contributors to the volume investigate new viewing practices associated with sensibility, the meaning of the cottage for Gainsborough and his contemporaries, the artist’s creation of affecting landscapes through the use of peasant subjects, and his theatrical treatment of these subjects in order to heighten his viewers’ emotional responses.

Gainsborough's Beautiful Mrs. Graham by Hugh Belsey – Hardcover: 96 pages Publisher: National Galleries of Scotland (June 2003)

This book explores the National Gallery of Scotland's world famous portrait The Honourable Mrs Graham by Thomas Gainsborough, one of the finest and most sensitive British portrait painters of the eighteenth century. An exquisite society beauty, Mary Graham (1757-1792) sat for Gainsborough for at least three portraits. Following her tragically early death from tuberculosis, her husband, later Lord Lynedoch, was so grief-stricken that he had the portrait stored in a London warehouse. It was not until after his death, more than forty years later, that an heir rediscovered the painting and bequeathed it to the Scottish nation on condition that it never leave Edinburgh.

Thomas Gainsborough: A Country Life by Hugh Belsey, Thomas Gainsborough – Hardcover: 96 pages; Publisher: Prestel Publishing (October 1, 2002)

This new study on Thomas Gainsborough concentrates on the early life and works of the great eighteenth-century artist. Gainsborough’s talent was evident at a young age, and before he established himself as one of London’s leading portrait artists he was able to indulge himself in his true passion, landscapes, as well as providing portraits for a provincial clientele.

Graced with the light and gentle shadows of the English countryside, these early works provided the foundation for much of Gainsborough’s later work. But many of them, including the renowned Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, and His Daughters Chasing a Butterfly, can be called masterpieces in their own right. It was in Suffolk that the artist developed a naturalistic approach to portraiture by abandoning "conversation pieces" and painting instead a number of straightforward head-and-shoulder portraits. This lively and accessible volume features eighty color and black-and-white reproductions of Gainsborough’s paintings, etchings, and drawings. They not only shed light on the development of one of England’s most revered painters, but also offer an intimate look at the work of a young painter in the thrall of his subjects, and just beginning to realize his full talents.

Gainsborough in Bath (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) by Susan Sloman – Hardcover: 272 pages Publisher: Paul Mellon Center BA (November 1, 2002)

When Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) arrived in the spa town of Bath, England, at the age of thirty-one, he was an artist of modest reputation. When he left sixteen years later, he was recognized as one of Europe's foremost painters. In this exceptional book, Susan Sloman examines for the first time how this transformation took place. She offers an entirely new view of Gainsborough's development during his middle years as well as abundant new information about Bath and its role, for a few decades in the eighteenth century, as a cultural center of Europe.

Drawing on freshly discovered documents and a variety of little-known contemporary published sources, Sloman illuminates artistic activity in Bath and Gainsborough's part in it. She reveals how Gainsborough's prominence as an artist and Bath's as a cultural hub were intimately connected during a period in which the artist and his town flourished together.

The Art of Thomas Gainsborough : "A Little Business for the Eye" (Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in Britis)by Michael Rosenthal – Hardcover: 320 pages Publisher: Paul Mellon Center BA (February 9, 2000)

In this sumptuously illustrated book, Michael Rosenthal provides a lively account of Thomas Gainsborough's varied life and diverse artworks. Rosenthal examines the artist's portraits, landscapes, and fancy pictures, works of extraordinary beauty and complexity. The book also considers for the first time Gainsborough's entire body of works and how his career reflected problems and situations common among painters in eighteenth-century England.

Gainsborough at Gainsborough's House by Hugh Belsey – Hardcover: 144 pages Publisher: Paul Holberton Publishing (February 1, 2003)

Perhaps the greatest of all English artists, Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) was born in the small town of Sudbury on the river Stour in Suffolk. His house is now both a museum and a research center for Gainsborough studies. It holds an outstanding collection of paintings, drawings, prints, books, and memorabilia relating to the artist and his time. This book presents both the highlights of this collection, which has not hitherto been published, and significant new research and insights relating to Gainsborough’s art, character, and career.

Works in the collection include fine examples by Gainsborough himself at all stages of his career, along with paintings and engravings by the artist’s mentors, Francis Hayman and Hubert-Francois Gravelot, and by his followers, notably his nephew Gainsborough Dupont and Thomas Rowlandson, and by other East Anglian artists, including John Constable.

Hugh Belsey is curator of Gainsborough’s House. He has published widely on Gainsborough and other 18th-century artists, most recently Gainsborough: A Country Life.

Thomas Gainsborough by John Hayes – Paperback: 158 pages Publisher: Tate Gallery (1980)

Catalog for exhibition held Oct. 8 1980-January 4 198 1. Superb 18th-century draftsmanship. Illustrated by b/w & color repros. 1st paper edition. Lists his drawings, prints, the early years in London and Suffolk 1745-59; The years of Maturity Bath 1759-74; The London Period 1774-88.


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