Gainsborough, Thomas

English, (1727-1788)

  • Thomas Gainsborough - Girl with Pigs
  • Girl with Pigs

  • (1782), oil on canvas
  • Castle Howard, Yorkshire, UK
  • Editor’s Note:

    Gainsborough often incorporated earlier figures into later works. Here is an example of his recycling of figures with his integration of ‘Girl with Pigs’ into his later work, ‘Cottage Door with Girl and Pigs’ shown below. Also worth noting, the poet Peter Pindar (John Wolcot) (1738–1819) praised Gainsborough’s work in a ode, ‘The Lyric Bard commendeth Mr. Gainsborough’s Pig — Recommendeth Landscape to the Artist.’

  • Thomas Gainsborough - Cottage Door with Girl and Pigs
  • Cottage Door with Girl and Pigs

  • (c.1786), oil on canvas
  • 38.6 x 49.2 in. (98 x 124 cm.)
  • Colchester and Ipswich Museums
  • Editor’s Note:

    While Gainsborough looked to modern life for his subject matter, he disparaged the modern enclosures of the land and the erosion of traditional rural values occurring in his time.

    The theme of the cottage door epitomized his attitude towards the nostalgia of the simpler life of the countryside. This nostalgia for the rural past was a theme that preoccupied much of his later life and work.

About the Artist

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), was an English painter. He is considered one of the great 18th century masters of both portraiture and landscape

In 1768 Gainsborough was elected one of the original members of the British Royal Academy of Arts; and in 1774 he painted, by royal invitation, portraits of King George III and the queen consort, Charlotte Sophia. That notoriety led to him becoming the favorite painter of the British aristocracy and many commissions for portraits.

Gainsborough executed more than 500 paintings, of which more than 200 are portraits. His portraits are characterized by the noble and refined grace of the figures, by fanciful charm, and by cool, fresh colors, chiefly greens and blues, thinly applied.

But Gainsborough‘s lifelong passion and arguably his greatest contribution to British art was landscape painting. He looked to modern rural life for his subject matter, a radical turn that eventually established Gainsborough as the leading landscape painter of his time. An effect of poetic melancholy induced by faint lighting characterizes Gainsborough’s landscape paintings. His landscapes transformed the rural poor into archetypal images of simplicity and beauty, awakening nostalgia for simpler times. [DES 10/11]

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