Thomas Gainsborough was an English painter, specialising in portraiture and landscape. He was born in 1727 in Suffolk and studied art in London from 1740 onwards. In 1759 he moved to Bath, but fashionable society patronised him, thus he began exhibiting is paintings in London. In 1769, Gainsborough became a founding member of the Royal Academy. He finally moved to London in 1774 and painted portraits of the King and Queen. Later in his life, Gainsborough started painting landscapes and was credited as the originator of the 18th century British Landscape school. He preferred landscapes to portraits.
|Painting of Cornard Wood by Thomas Gainsborough – image from www.telegraph.co.uk|
At the age of thirteen, Gainsborough’s father was so impressed with his pencilling skills that he was allowed to go study art in London. In 1746, after he married, Gainsborough was mainly interested in landscape painting, however it wasn’t selling very well. Therefore, he returned to his hometown and started painting portraits.
When Gainsborough and his family moved to Bath, he studied portraits by van Dyck and was eventually able to attract fashionable clientele. He started to send his work to the Society of Arts exhibition in London in 1761. Exhibitions such as these gave him a national reputation and as a result he was invited to become one of the founding members of the Royal Academy.
When he moved to London, he continued to paint portraits of contemporary celebrities, including the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland and King George III. This gave him enough influence at the Academy for him to dictate the manner which he wished his work to be exhibited. In Gainsborough’s later year, he continued painting rather simple and ordinary landscapes.
"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 and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease."
Gainsborough’s like for landscape paintings shows in the way he painted his portraits as he merged the figures of the portraits with the scenes behind them.
Wooded Upland Landscape, probably 1783 Oil on Canvas
The reason I wanted to look into Thomas Gainsborough is because a lot of landscape photography comes from paintings - that’s how this genre started out. Gainsborough’s paintings are interesting to look at because of the different shades of each colour he uses. For example, when you look at the sky in the picture above, you can see so many different shades of grey, just like you would do in a photograph. It’s painted with so much detail and so many different elements are included it looks realistic. These paintings would fall under the subject of deadpan because of the lack of emotions as well as the cloudy sky.
What I like about Gainsborough is that even though he changed to portraiture, he always kept in touch with nature and landscape. The person he painted would be surrounded by trees for example. It’s like he always knew what he wanted to do, but had to sacrifice a bit of him in order to make a living.