Gainsborough, Thomas

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

Thomas Gainsborough was one of the most famous English painters of the 1700's. He is best known for his elegant portraits. But Gainsborough was also a master of landscape painting.

Gainsborough was born in 1727 in Sudbury, England. The exact date of his birth is unknown. He showed a talent for drawing at a young age. At 13 he left Sudbury to study art in London. After completing his studies he remained in London. There he married Margaret Burr in 1746. He returned to Sudbury in 1748.

Gainsborough preferred painting landscapes. But he could earn more money painting portraits. His early works included conversation pieces (small-scale group portraits in natural settings) and head-and-shoulder portraits of merchants. His reputation as an accomplished portraitist spread. He moved to the resort town of Bath about 1760 and finally to London in 1774. Later he painted glamorous, full-length portraits of the nobility, including King George III. He painted him eight times. His idyllic landscapes often featured peasants traveling to or from markets amid a landscape of windswept trees.

Gainsborough's most famous painting resulted from a disagreement with the English artist and critic Joshua Reynolds. According to Reynolds, blue could not be used successfully except as a minor color in a picture. To prove Reynolds wrong, Gainsborough painted The Blue Boy (1770), a portrait of a merchant's son. He used many shades of blue and almost no other color.

In 1768, Gainsborough became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, an exhibiting society for artists that still exists. His services as a painter continued to be in great demand until his death in London on August 2, 1788.

Herbert B. Grimsditch
Former Executive Editor
Fleetway Publications (London)

 

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