Thomas Gainsborough born in Sudbury, Suffolk, Gainsborough displayed precocious artistic skills. According to family legend, he helped catch a pear thief in a neighbor's orchard by accurately sketching the culprit. Recognizing his obvious talent, his family sent him to London at the age of 13, where he was trained by the French Rococo artist Hubert Gravelot.
In 1745, Thomas Gainsborough set up in business hoping to make a living selling landscapes, but the venture failed and he returned to Suffolk. Gainsborough preferred landscapes to 'face painting', but found that portraiture was more profitable. With this in mind, he eventually moved from Suffolk to the fashionable resort of Bath, where he was employed by a rich illustrious clientele.
The English Industrial Revolution during the second half of the eighteenth century changed the social situation and established a new relationship between the middle classes and art. Portraiture, previously confined to the aristocracy and higher clergy, also became accessible to the bourgeoisie. The emphatic and celebratory style typical of the aristocratic portrait was now replaced by a more faithful likeness. Gainsborough frequently painted his two daughters to record their physical and psychological development. The Painters Daughters Chasing A Butterfly, here the children are still small, but the old girl already seems less interested in her younger sister's game of chasing a butterfly.
Gainsborough set his figures in landscapes and sought to paint a true likeness of his subject in a natural manner. This contrasted with Reynolds views of portraiture, it sparked an artistic debate that led to the creation of an independent school of English portraiture.
Here, Thomas Gainsborough honed his skills to perfection, often painting landscapes by candlelight, in order to give his brushwork its distinctive, flickering appearance, using a tabletop arrangement of stones, pieces of mirrors, broccoli, and the like as a model. His later work was characterized by a light palette and easy, economical strokes.
Gainsborough was interested in reflections of light on silk and satin, the deep tones of velvet, and the delicacy of lace. He often painted full-length figures, The Morning Walk, with his figures being in motion in a natural setting. The feeling for landscape is one of the painter's distinctive features and he anticipates the development of a genre that was to become extremely popular in England during the Romantic period.
By 1768, he was so famous that he was invited to become one of the founding members of the Royal Academy. Gainsborough accepted and spent the final years of his career in London vying with Reynolds for supremacy in the field of portraiture.
The rapid rise in the value of pictures by Thomas Gainsborough and also by Reynolds in the mid 19th century was partly because of the Rothschild family, including Ferdinand de Rothschild, began collecting them. In 2011, Gainsborough's portrait of Miss Read (Portrait of Mrs. Frances Villebois) was sold for a record price of $9,000,000. Thomas Gainsborough Portrait of Mrs. Sarah Siddons oil reproduction on canvas (shown below) can be seen being painted in Our Artists section.
Art Movement History: Rococo.
Artists Influencing Thomas Gainsborough: Hubert Gravelot, William Hogarth, Francis Hayman, Anthony Van Dyck.
Artist's Biography compiled by Albert L. Mansour at The World's Artist.