Thomas Gainsborough | The Victoria Art Gallery

Thomas Gainsborough

Image: Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Thomas Rumbold and his son William,. c.1770, On loan from a descendant of the sitters

1727-1788. Gainsborough was the fifth son of a Suffolk cloth merchant. He set himself up as a painter in Ipswich, and became successful. His decision to move his portrait studio to Bath in 1759 coincided with the Spa’s fashionable heyday. Such was his success locally that ten of his East Anglian relatives followed him to Bath. He lived first in a spacious Georgian property in Abbey Street, since demolished. In such august surroundings, he could entertain clients with witty conversation, whilst applying equal dash to his handling of paint. Later he moved uphill to 17 Circus, where he remained until he left for London in 1774.

Although we remember Gainsborough as much for his landscapes as his portraits, it was as a portraitist that he made his living. The landscapes he painted were done for his own pleasure at a time when landscape as a genre was only just becoming popular. Gainsborough, while charming to his sitters, was often frustrated by ‘the curs’d Face Business’, as he referred to portrait painting in letters. However, portraits and fancy pictures of peasants sold. Many of his landscapes remained unsold at his death.

image: Thomas Gainsborough, Hilly Wooded Landscape, c. 1763, on loan from a private collection

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