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Gainsborough Thomas
(1727—1788)

Gainsborough Thomas (1727—1788)

Thomas Gainsborough is an English landscape and portrait painter, one of the great English masters. He was born in Sudbury, Suffolk in the family of a clothier. He showed an aptitude for drawing early and first was encouraged by his mother, who was a woman of well-cultivated mind and excelled in flower-painting. He used to spend a lot of time outdoors, drawing. In 1740, at the age of 13 he was sent to London to study art. He spent several years working in the studios of different artists, one of whom was Hubert Gravelot, a draughtsman and engraver, another one was a scene-painter and illustrator Francis Hayman.

In 1748 Gainsborough presented The Charterhouse (1748) to the Foundling Hospital, it was a way for the artist to show one of his works, because at that time there were no other possibilities for young artists. In 1746 Gainsborough married Margaret Burr, an illegitimate daughter of Duke of Beaufort. His wife brought the family an annuity of £200, which enabled him to start his career as a portrait-painter in Ipswich.

In 1760 Gainsborough decided to move to Bath, where it was possible for him to have portraits commissioned by the much wealthier and nobler persons. Bath, famous for its mineral waters, was the principal lounging place for persons of wealth and leisure in winter. Gainsborough became well-known there in his first year after moving and since then always had a lot of sitters. His portraits combine the elegance of Van Dyck with his own characteristic informality. In 1768 he became one of the foundation members of the Royal Academy, at which he exhibited annually until 1784, when he retired after the disagreement over the hanging of his pictures at the exhibition. In 1774 Gainsborough moved to London. He was an established master by then. He died from cancer on the 3rd of August, 1788 and was buried in Kew.


Maldives, 2004, Paintings from the Hermitage

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