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Thomas Gainsborough

Gainsborough is one of the best and most famous British portrait and landscape painters of the 18th century. Born in 1727 at Sudbury in Suffolk, Thomas was sent to London by his father at the age of 14 to study art and design, as pupil of the French artist Hubert Gravelot, and English artist and designer Francis Hayman.

He married the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Beaufort in 1846, who brought with her an annuity that enabled him to set up a studio in Ipswich - as a landscape artist and portrait painter.

He realised early in his career that his portrait paintings would be the commercially successful side of the business and that his own favourite, landscape painting, would be more of a personal indulgence.

Moving to Bath in 1760 to gain access to more noble and wealthy patrons, he produced many well know and famous works such as Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 1748, The Blue Boy in 1770, and notable landscapes such as The Watering Place in 1777, and The Harvest Wagon in 1767.

Gainsborough moved again in 1774, this time to London, where he painted portraits of the King, and Queen, George III and Queen Charlotte, in 1781, preferred over the official court painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds.

He was much influenced by both Rubens and Van Dyke,

One of the founding members of the Royal Academy, and hung his works there until 1874, when he retired after a disagreement about the hanging of his pictures at an exhibition.

John Constable said of Gainsborough’s landscapes “on looking at them, we find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them”.

Thomas Gainsborough died of cancer in August 1788, the dominant British portrait painter of the second half of the 18th century and one of the principal masters of the English school of landscape painting.

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