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Thomas Gainsborough
Photo credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

Thomas Gainsborough c.1758–1759

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788)

National Portrait Gallery, London

(Baptised Sudbury, Suffolk, 14 May 1727; died London, 2 August 1788). English painter (of portraits, landscapes, and fancy pictures), draughtsman and occasional printmaker, one of the most individual geniuses in British art. He showed artistic talent from an early age and around 1740 (aged about 13) he moved to London, where he studied with Gravelot and perhaps also with Hayman. In 1748 he returned to Sudbury and in 1752 he set up as a portrait painter in Ipswich, the largest town in the county. His work at this time consisted mainly of heads and half-lengths, but he also produced some small portrait groups in landscape settings, including the celebrated Mr and Mrs Andrews (c.1749, NG, London), remarkable for its ‘dewy freshness’ (Ellis Waterhouse). In addition he painted pure landscapes (Cornard Wood, 1748, NG, London). His patrons in Ipswich were mainly the merchants of the town and local squires, but in 1759 he moved to Bath, where he worked for much more fashionable clients, many of them wealthy visitors to the spa town. From now on all his portraits were life-size and many of them were full-lengths, in which he cultivated a free and elegant manner (Mary, Countess Howe, c.1764, Kenwood House, London).

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)


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