1727 -- 1788

Thomas Gainsborough

Self Portrait (1759)

Thomas Gainsborough, the son of a schoolteacher, was born in Sudbury in 1727. As a child he copied famous paintings and at fourteen was sent to London where he trained under Hubert Gravelot.

In 1745 Gainsborough married Margaret Burr, the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, and established himself as a painter in Ipswich. He developed the subject-matter of small portrait groups, set in a realistic landscape. His most famous painting of this period is Mr and Mrs Andrews (1748) below, click on image for larger size.

Mr and Mrs Andrews (small)

Mr and Mrs Andrews (1748)

His patrons were the merchants of the town and the neighboring squires, but when in 1759 he moved to Bath, his new sitters were members of Society, and he developed a free and elegant mode of painting seen at its most characteristic in full-length portraits.

Miss Lloyd (small)
Miss Llyod

During his period in Bath, spent at number 17 in the prestigious Circus, he produced some of his finest portraits. In 1774 Gainsborough moved back to London where he became a founder member of the Royal Academy. However, after several disagreements with the Academy about the selection of his paintings, he refused to exhibit there after 1784.

Lady in Blue (small)

Lady in Blue (1770s)

By the 1780s Gainsborough and his rivals, Joshua Reynolds and Allen Ramsay were considered to be the best portrait painters in England. All three painted George III but it was claimed that the royal family preferred Gainsborough's portraits.

Joshua Reynolds honored him in 1788 with these words:

"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 the art, among the very first of that rising name."

Gainsborough died in 1788.