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Thomas Gainsborough

British Painter

Thomas Gainsborough Photo
Movements and Styles: The Rococo, Realism, Romanticism, Neoclassicism

Born: May 14, 1727 - Sudbury, England

Died: August 2, 1788 - London, England

"One part of a picture ought to be like the first part of a tune; that you can guess what follows, and that makes the second part of the tune and so I've done."

Summary of Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough achieved name and fame as the best-known English artist of the 18th century for his outstanding innovations and techniques in both landscape and portraiture. Having been introduced to the Rococo style of art in the early part of his career, Gainsborough's works echoed luxury and leisure of aristocratic society through contemporary fashion. But his most influential works were ones of idealized pastoral life in the rural countryside, which would be taken further by the modern artists of Romanticism. With his exceptional abilities and passion for landscapes he exerted a powerful sway over the British School of painting and earned a reputation as an artist of national significance.

Key Ideas

Exuding an affinity for Rococo stylistics, Gainsborough's portraiture was replete with lyricism and elegance that was a perfect way to depict the opulence of his upper class clientele.
Gainsborough made conscious efforts at subverting the mainstream trends by displaying tendencies of deviation and social satire. For instance, in the work Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, the viewer's presence is not only acknowledged but the figures are also portrayed with uncanny expressions to powerfully convey the condescending attitude of the aristocratic society.
Disregarding the conventions of patron selection, Gainsborough opened up the genre of portraiture even to the socially controversial personalities. This concept would be taken to the next level by the Realists.
With his unconventional ways of painting that employed allegory and idealism, his works presented a departure from dominant academic tradition of history painting and thereby became an inspiring source for artists of Romanticism.
The poetic delineation of nature and the rural folk therein was a unique aesthetic developed by Gainsborough and in this respect he is absolutely a leader of British School of landscape painting as well as a precursor for artists like John Constable.
Thomas Gainsborough Photo

Thomas Gainsborough was the youngest son of John and Mary Gainsborough. Of his ten siblings, it was Thomas who had shown interest in painting early in life. His desire for portraiture and landscapes began to surface when he was barely ten years old. Knowledge of textures and fabrics that he had gained by observing textiles in the cloth industry where his father worked, as a weaver and wool handler, was put to best use by him for the costumes of his portrait subjects.

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