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Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape artist, draughtsman, and printmaker, considered to be among the most significant British artists of the 18th century. Aside from having a passion for the arts, Thomas was also the founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
See the fact file below for more information on the Thomas Gainsborough or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Thomas Gainsborough worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
EARLY LIFE AND FAMILY
- Born in Sudbury, Suffolk in 1727, Thomas Gainsborough was the fifth and youngest son of a cloth merchant, John Gainsborough, and his wife, the sister of the Reverend Humphry Burroughs.
- He spent his childhood at what is now called Gainsborough’s House, located in Gainsborough Street, Sudbury. He later lived there, following the death of his father in 1748 and before he left for Ipswich.
- Their house still survives and is now turned into a house-museum dedicated to his life and art.
- During his early years, he impressed his father with his drawing and painting skills. At the age of ten, he was able to paint heads and small landscapes, including a miniature self-portrait.
- In 1740, he was allowed to move to London to study art, where he was advised and trained by engraver Hubert Gravelot but became associated with William Hogarth and his school.
- He became Francis Hayman’s assistant in the decoration of the supper boxes at Vauxhall Gardens. Later on, he contributed one image to the decoration of what is now known as the Thomas Coram Foundation for Children.
- In 1746, most of his artworks were not selling, including those of the landscape paintings. He went back to Sudbury in 1748 to 1749 and focused on painting portraits.
- While still in Suffolk, he painted a portrait of the Rev. John Chaffy playing a violoncello in a landscape.
- In 1752, he and his family moved to Ipswich. His commissions for portraits grew, but his clientele included mostly local merchants and squires.
- Throughout his stay in Ipswich, he painted a self-portrait, now displayed in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
- In 1759, Thomas and his family departed for Bath, living at number 17 The Circus. There, he studied portraits by van Dyck and was then able to amuse a fashionable clientele.
- In 1761, he started to send most of his works to the Society of Arts exhibition in London, now known as the Royal Society of Arts, where he was one of the founding members.
- His submissions during the exhibitions helped him build his reputation, and he was invited to become an establishing member of the Royal Academy in 1769. His relationship with the Academy was challenging and he stopped exhibiting his paintings in 1773.
- Despite being thrown in the limelight because of his success and popularity in painting portraits for fashionable society, he showed deep frustration during his Bath period at the number of demands for his works. This stopped him from pursuing his chosen artistic interests.
- In 1774, he and his family moved to London to reside in a Schomberg House in Pall Mall.
- In 1777, once again, he started to exhibit his artworks at the Royal Academy, including portraits of contemporary celebrities, such as the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland. This continued for the next six years. During this time, he also started experimenting with printmaking using the then-novel techniques of aquatint and soft-ground etching.
- In the 1770s and 1780s, Thomas improved his portrait skills, in which he added the sitter into the landscape. An example of this is his portrait of Frances Browne, Mrs. John Douglas, which is now displayed at Waddesdon Manor. The sitter has withdrawn to a isolated and overgrown corner of a garden to read a letter, her pose recalling the classic representation of Melancholy.
- In 1776, he painted a portrait of Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian Bach. This artwork can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
- In 1780, Thomas made a portrait of King George III and Queen Charlotte. This marked the day where he started receiving other royal commissions.
- In his later years, he often painted landscapes. Together with Richard Wilson, an influential Welsh landscape painter, he was among the originators of the 18th century British landscape school.
- In the 1780s, Gainsborough used a device called a “Showbox” to make landscapes and display them backlit on glass. The original box is displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
- Art historian Michael Rosental describes Thomas’ method as “one of the most technically proficient and, at the same time, most experimental artists of his time.”
- Thomas was known for his quick painting movements, and he worked more from observations of nature than from application of formal academic standards.
- English landscape painter John Constable mentioned the poetic sensibility of Thomas’ paintings. He said, “On looking at them, we find tears in our eyes and know not what brings them.”
- His passion for landscapes was portrayed in the way he merged figures of the portraits with the scenes as the backdrop. His landscapes were sometimes painted at night by candlelight, with tabletop arrangements of stones, pieces of mirrors, broccoli, and the like as a model.
- Some artists described his work as having a light palette with easy, economical strokes.
PERSONAL LIFE AND DEATH
- In 1746, Thomas married the Duke of Beaufort’s illegitimate daughter, Margaret Burr.
- Thomas and Margaret had two daughters.
- On August 2, 1788, Thomas died of cancer at the age of 61. His daughter Peggy revealed his last words – “van Dyck”.
- His remains were buried near his friend Joshua Kirby, another well-known 18th century English landscape painter.
Thomas Gainsborough Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Thomas Gainsborough across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Thomas Gainsborough worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Thomas Gainsborough who was an English portrait and landscape artist, draughtsman, and printmaker, considered to be among the most significant British artists of the 18th century. Aside from having a passion for the arts, Thomas was also the founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Thomas Gainsborough Facts
- Thomas Gainsborough Who?
- Fact Checkpoint
- Art Movements
- Editorial Calendar
- Other Artists
- Explaining Art
- Color Recipe
- Feeling Like Gainsborough
- Letter to Gainsborough
- Quote from Gainsborough
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Link will appear as Thomas Gainsborough Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 3, 2020
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