Friday, 2 August 2013

"We find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them."

"We find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them." So said John Constable on viewing a painting by Thomas Gainsborough. 
Thomas Gainsborough (Self Portrait)

Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woollen goods, and his wife, the sister of the Reverend Humphry Burroughs. When he was 13 he impressed his father with his drawing skills and he was allowed to go to London to study art in 1740. In London he trained under engraver Hubert Gravelot but became associated with William Hogarth and his school.

Gainsborough was noted for the speed with which he applied paint, and he worked more from observations of nature (and of human nature) than from application of formal academic rules. 

It was as a portrait painter that Gainsborough really drew his living being employed by the rich and famous of the day, as well as the British royal family. In 1761, he began to send work to the Society of Arts exhibition in London (now the Royal Society of Arts, of which he was one of the earliest members); and from 1769 he submitted works to the Royal Academy's annual exhibitions. He selected portraits of well-known or notorious clients in order to attract attention. The exhibitions helped him acquire a national reputation.

In later lifr, however, Gainsborough seems to have grown to dislike the high society in which he worked and, instead, retreated into a self contained world. Gainsbrough said, "I'm sick of portraits, and wish very much to take my viol-da-gam and walk off to some sweet village, where I can paint landskips (sic) and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease." His liking for landscapes is shown in the way he merged figures of the portraits with the scenes behind them. 

His most famous works, Portrait of Mrs. Graham; Mary and Margaret: The Painter's Daughters; William Hallett and His Wife Elizabeth, nee Stephen, known as The Morning Walk; and Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher, display the unique individuality of his subjects. Joshua Reynolds considered Girl with Pigs ' the best picture he (Gainsborough) ever painted or perhaps ever will.' However, I far prefer his portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire.

Gainsborough died of cancer on 2 August 1788 at the age of 61 and is interred at St. Anne's Church, Kew, Surrey (located on Kew Green). 

Girl with Pigs

Georgiana Cavendish

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