Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas GainsboroughFRSA (christened 14 May 1727, died 2 August 1788) was an English portrait and landscape painter, draughtsman, and printmaker. He surpassed his rival Sir Joshua Reynolds to become the dominant British portraitist 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. He preferred landscapes to portraits, and is credited (with Richard Wilson ) as the originator of the 18th-century British landscape school. Gainsborough was a founding member of the Royal Academy .

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 Thomas Gainsborough's Youth and training

Lady Lloyd and Her Son, Richard Savage Lloyd, of Hintlesham Hall, Suffolk(1745–46). At the time, his clientele included mainly local merchants and squires.

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 asScheming Jackbecause 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 1749).[citation needed]The original building still survives and is now a dedicated House to his life and art.

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 .

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 Thomas Gainsborough's Career


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.


Ann Ford (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse), 1760
The Blue Boy(1770). The Huntington, California.

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 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 .

His later pictures are characterized by a light palette and easy strokes. Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield, 1777–1778

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. At his own express wish, he was buried at St. Anne's Church, Kew , where the Family regularly worshipped.

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 Sir Joshua Reynolds, he was the dominant British portraitist of the second half of the 18th century.

A street in Kew, Gainsborough Road, is also named after him.

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 Thomas Gainsborough's Technique

, 1781–82, said by Sir Joshua Reynolds to be "the best picture he ever painted".

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."

His later work was characterised by a light palette and easy, economical strokes.

;Mary and Margaret: The Painter's Daughters;William Hallett and His Wife Elizabeth, nee Stephen, known asThe Morning Walk; andCottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, display the unique individuality of his subjects. Joshua Reynolds consideredGirl with Pigs"the best picture he (Gainsborough) ever painted or perhaps ever will".

In the last year of his life he collaborated with John Hoppner in painting a full-length portrait of Lady Charlotte Talbot .

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 Thomas Gainsborough's See also

The Harvest Wagon(c. 1784)
  • Gainsborough's House
  • Humphrey Gainsborough
  • Holywells Park, Ipswich
  • Art of the United Kingdom
  • English art
  • List of British painters
  • Western painting

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 Thomas Gainsborough's References

  1. "Thomas Gainsborough". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved 10 December 2011. 
  2. Fulcher, George William, Life of Thomas Gainsborough, London 1856
  3. Conrad, Stephen, "Thomas Gainsborough's First Self-portrait", The British Art Journal, Vol. XII, No. 1, Summer 2011, pp. 52–59
  4. Greenwood, Charles (1977). Famous houses of the West Country. Bath: Kingsmead Press. pp. 84–86. ISBN 978-0-901571-87-8. 
  5. Plaque #2 on Open Plaques.
  6. "Thomas Gainsborough Blue Plaque". Retrieved 13 May 2013. 
  7. Rosenthal, Michael. "Gainsborough, Thomas". Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  8. Jackson, William (1798). The Four Ages including essays on various subjects. Cadell & Davies. p. 161. 
  9. Jackson, William (1798). The Four Ages including essays on various subjects. Cadell & Davies. p. 183. 
  10. Woodall, Mary , Introduction to The Letters of Thomas Gainborough, Cupid Press , London, 1963
  12. "Restoration of Thomas Gainsborough's tomb". Richmond Guardian (London). 7 March 2011. Retrieved 1 December 2011. 
  13. Dunbar, Janet. A Prospect of Richmond (1977 ed.). George Harrap. pp. 199–209. 
  14. Willes, F.W. Letters of Joshua Reynolds , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1929
  15. Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection. London: Giles. p. 80. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5. Retrieved 24 June 2011. 
  16. Hardman, Robert (17 July 2011). "Why I'm swapping my £25m house for a cottage". Daily Mail (London). 
  17. "Richard III – Family tree – Ann of York – Michael Ibsen – University of Leicester". 
  18. Turi E. King; et al. (2014). "Figure 1: Genealogical links between Richard III and modern-day relatives who participated in this study.". Nature Communications. doi:10.1038/ncomms6631. Retrieved December 2, 2014. 

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 Thomas Gainsborough's Further reading

  • Thomas Gainsborough, William T. Whitley, (John Murray, 1915)
  • Gainsborough, Ellis Waterhouse , (Edward Hulton, 1958) – the standard catalogue of the portraits etc.
  • The Letters of Thomas Gainborough, ed. Mary Woodall, (Cupid Press, 1963)
  • The Drawings of Thomas Gainsborough, John Hayes , (Two volumes, Zwemmer, 1970) – the standard catalogue of the drawings
  • Gainsborough as Printmaker, John Hayes, (Zwemmer, 1971) – the standard catalogue of the prints
  • Gainsborough, John Hayes, (Phaidon, 1975)
  • Gainsborough & Reynolds in the British Museum, ed. Timothy Clifford, Antony Grffiths and Martin Royalton-Kisch, (BMP, 1978)
  • Thomas Gainborough, John Hayes, (Tate Gallery, 1981)
  • The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, John Hayes (Two volumes, Sotheby's, 1982) – the standard catalogue on the landscape paintings
  • Thomas Gainsborough: His Life and Art, Jack Lindsay, (Harper Collins, 1982)
  • A Nest of Nightingales: Thomas Gainsborough, The Linley Sisters. Paintings and their Context II, ed. Giles Waterfield, (Dulwich PIcture Gallery, 1988)
  • The Paintings of Thomas Gainborough, Malcolm Cormack, (Cambridge University Press, 1991)
  • Gainsborough & Reynolds: Contrasts in Royal Patronage, exhibition catalogue, (Queen's Gallery, 1994)
  • Gainsborough's Vision, Amal Asfour and Paul Williamson (Liverpool University Press, 1999)
  • The Art of Thomas Gainborough: A little business for the Eye, Michael Rosenthal, (Yale University Press, 1999)
  • The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. John Hayes (Yale University Press, 2001)
  • Gainsborough, eds. Michael Rosenthal and Martin Myrone, (Tate, 2002)
  • Gainsborough in Bath, Susan Sloman, (Yale University Press, 2002)
  • Gainsborough, William Vaughan, (World of Art, Thames & Hudson, 2002) – the most accessible introduction
  • Sensation & Sensibility: Viewing Gainsborough's Cottage Door, ed. Ann Bermingham (Yale University Press, 2005)
  • Thomas Gainsborough's First Self-portrait, Stephen Conrad, inThe British Art Journal, Vol. XII, No. 1, Summer 2011, pp. 52–59
  • Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, ed. Benedict Leca, (Giles, 2011)
  • Gainsborough's Landscapes: Themes and Variations, Susan Sloman, (Philip Wilson, 2012)
  • Wikisource-logo.svg Rossetti, William Michael (1911). " Gainsborough, Thomas ". In Chisholm, Hugh.Encyclopædia Britannica11(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  •  Monkhouse, William Cosmo (1889). " Gainsborough, Thomas ". In Stephen, Leslie .Dictionary of National Biography20. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  • Belsey, Hugh. "Gainsborough, Thomas (1727–1788)".Oxford Dictionary of National Biography(online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi : 10.1093/ref:odnb/10282 . (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

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