Baroque and Rococo


Baroque and Rococo Art Map


Thomas Gainsborough


Thomas Gainsborough

(b Sudbury, Suffolk, bapt 14 May 1727; d London, 2 Aug 1788).

English painter, draughtsman and printmaker. He was the contemporary and rival of Joshua Reynolds, who honoured him on 10 December 1788 with a valedictory Discourse (pubd London, 1789), in which he stated: ‘If ever this nation should produce genius sufficient to acquire to us the honourable distinction of an English School, the name of Gainsborough will be transmitted to posterity, in the history of Art, among the very first of that rising name.’ He went on to consider Gainsborough’s portraits, landscapes and fancy pictures within the Old Master tradition, against which, in his view, modern painting had always to match itself. Reynolds was acknowledging a general opinion that Gainsborough was one of the most significant painters of their generation. Less ambitious than Reynolds in his portraits, he nevertheless painted with elegance and virtuosity. He founded his landscape manner largely on the study of northern European artists and developed a very beautiful and often poignant imagery of the British countryside. By the mid-1760s he was making formal allusions to a wide range of previous art, from Rubens and Watteau to, eventually, Claude and Titian. He was as various in his drawings and was among the first to take up the new printmaking techniques of aquatint and soft-ground etching. Because his friend, the musician and painter William Jackson (1730–1803), claimed that Gainsborough detested reading, there has been a tendency to deny him any literacy. He was, nevertheless, as his surviving letters show, verbally adept, extremely witty and highly cultured. He loved music and performed well. He was a person of rapidly changing moods, humorous, brilliant and witty. At the time of his death he was expanding the range of his art, having lived through one of the more complex and creative phases in the history of British painting. He painted with unmatched skill and bravura; while giving the impression of a kind of holy innocence, he was among the most artistically learned and sophisticated painters of his generation. It has been usual to consider his career in terms of the rivalry with Reynolds that was acknowledged by their contemporaries; while Reynolds maintained an intellectual and academic ideal of art, Gainsborough grounded his imagery on contemporary life, maintaining an aesthetic outlook previously given its most powerful expression by William Hogarth. His portraits, landscapes and subject pictures are only now coming to be studied in all their complexity; having previously been viewed as being isolated from the social, philosophical and ideological currents of their time, they have yet to be fully related to them. It is clear, however, that his landscapes and rural pieces, and some of his portraits, were as significant as Reynolds acknowledged them to be in 1788.



Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan


The Artist's Daughters with a Cat

Oil on canvas, 75,6 x 62,9 cm
National Gallery, London


Conversation in a Park

c. 1740
Oil on canvas, 73 x 68 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris


Lady Alston

Oil on canvas, 226 x 168 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris


Mary, Countess of Howe

Oil on canvas, 244 x 152,4 cm
Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House, London


River Landscape

Oil on canvas, 119 x 168 cm
Museum of Art, Philadelphia


Master John Heathcote

Oil on canvas, 127 x 101 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington


Johann Christian Bach

Oil on canvas
Bibliografico Musicale, Museo Civico, Bologna


Mrs Grace Dalrymple Elliot

c. 1778
Oil on canvas, 234,3 x 153,6 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Johann Christian Fischer

c. 1780
Oil on canvas, 228,6 x 150,5 cm
Royal Collection, Windsor

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