|Birth Year : 1727
Death Year : 1788
Country : United Kingdom
Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. His parents sent him
to London when he was fourteen and he spent five years studying art with
Hayman, an English designer and portraitist, and with Gravelot, a French
illustrator and engraver. Gainsborough married an heiress when he was nineteen
and the couple lived first in Ipswich and then in Bath. Though Gainsborough
painted portraits of the landed gentry and nobility to assure himself of
his livelihood, his real passion was for landscapes. He frequently managed
to combine the two types of art with more than felicitous effects: his
portraits lost some of their stiffness of figure because of the natural
settings in which they blend so easily. Gainsborough's early familiarity
with the great country houses where so much of their work was collected,
enabled him to see and to study the works of such masters as Watteau,
Rubens, and van Dyck.
If the placing and positioning of Gainsborough's figures show the influence
of Watteau's compostition, and
the fluid techniques he used are said to stem from Rubens,
the suave elegance of his later portraits bears the unmistakable mark of
van Dyck refined by Gainsborough's
own eighteenth-century manner.
When Gainsborough moved to London in 1774 and set up his own studio,
his popularity soon rivaled that of the famous Sir Joshua Reynolds,
perhaps because, unlike Reynolds, Gainsborough never had any difficulty
in mastering a likeness. Thus his works have a spontaneity and freshness,
a lightness and grace reminiscent of the chamber music that he so enjoyed.
Gainsborough's ability to render texture ranging from the lightest gauze
to the stiffest satin was superb, as was his ability to create fresh color
in both fabric and skin. His very last works have the same lightness that
was later found in the works of Renoir.
A founding member of the Royal Academy in 1768, Gainsborough broke with
that group in 1783 after a quarrel over the hanging of his pictures. Upon
his deathbed, he was reconciled to Sir Joshua Reynolds,
with whom he had had serious differences on questions of technique.
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