Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough

English painter and draftsman
Date of Birth: 14.05.1727
Country: Great Britain

  1. Biography of Thomas Gainsborough
  2. Early Life and Career
  3. Later Life and Legacy
  4. Thomas Gainsborough passed away on August 2, 1788.

Biography of Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough was an English painter and draftsman known for his portraits. His style was highly individual and subjective, which limited its influence on other artists. However, his landscapes and drawings were widely copied.

Early Life and Career

Gainsborough was born in 1727 in Sudbury, Suffolk. In the 1740s, he served as an apprentice to French draftsman and engraver Hubert Gravelot in London. His early landscapes were reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch masters, with compositions and details resembling the works of Dutch painters. One example is his painting "Cornard Wood" (1748, London, National Gallery), which captures the soft silver light and moist air found in Dutch landscapes.

After his father's death in 1748, Gainsborough had to return to Sudbury. In 1752 or 1753, he moved to Ipswich, where he found patrons among the local gentry and clergy. His early portraits from this period were somewhat stiff and static in appearance, but Gainsborough had a remarkable ability to capture the likeness and mood of his subjects while maintaining a fresh and lively painting style.

Gainsborough continued to paint landscapes, which he had a special affinity for. Many of his landscapes were intended as decorative panels for wooden carvings above fireplaces, such as the two commissioned by the Duke of Bedford in 1755. During this time, his portrait style also evolved, moving towards Rococo influences.

In 1759, Gainsborough relocated to Bath, a fashionable resort town, where he received numerous commissions from the English aristocracy. His paintings during this period showed the influence of Anthony van Dyck's refined and elegant art. Gainsborough had a unique ability to render the texture of silk, satin, lace, gold embroidery, and velvet, without the assistance of a drapery painter.

In the late 1760s and early 1770s, Gainsborough painted a series of large landscape compositions inspired by the works of Rubens. One of his most famous works from this period is "The Harvest Wagon" (Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Arts). He participated in the annual exhibitions of the Society of Artists and became a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1768.

Later Life and Legacy

In 1774, Gainsborough moved to London and was elected to the Council of the Royal Academy. However, he often neglected his duties. In 1784, he had a falling out with the Academy and began organizing exhibitions of his own works in his studio at Schomberg House on Pall Mall. Descriptions of these exhibitions were published by his friend, Henry Bate.

Gainsborough's late portraits were filled with a sublime and romantic spirit, characterized by a refined and free execution. The backgrounds featured wooded landscapes painted with broad and effortless brushstrokes. One of his most successful late portraits is "The Morning Walk" (1785, London, National Gallery), depicting a young married couple.

Over time, Gainsborough increasingly turned to constructed compositions, creating small models on his table from which he painted. His mountain landscapes reflected the taste for the sublime, while his paintings of country cottages and peasants conveyed a sentimental attitude towards rural life.

Gainsborough had a great interest in lighting effects and developed a "magic lantern" with transparent plates displaying painted images and lit by burning candles. In his drawings, he constantly experimented with new techniques, achieving remarkable freedom and fluidity in style. He was able to convey form with just a few strokes and used pastels with a swiftness and intensity reminiscent of Van Gogh.

Gainsborough's portrait painting had a surprisingly limited influence on other artists due to its highly individual and subjective style. However, his landscapes and drawings were widely copied. The renowned landscape painter of the next generation, John Constable, admired Gainsborough's works.

Thomas Gainsborough passed away on August 2, 1788.