Thomas Gainsborough

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Thomas Gainsborough, Self portrait 1758-59; location: National Portrait Gallery London
Gainsborough, 1748-49: 'Mr and Mrs Andrews', oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery London
Gainsborough, 1760-61: 'The Painter's Daughters with a Cat', oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery London, room 35
Gainsborough, 1783: 'Portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery of Art Washington

Thomas Gainsborough in quotes. Thomas Gainsborough, (baptised 14 May 1727 - 2 August 1788) was one of the most famous portrait ànd landscape painters of 18th century in Britain.

Quotes of Gainsborough[edit]

  • I wish you would recollect that Painting and Punctuality mix like Oil and Vinegar, and that Genius and regularity are uttee Enemies
    • Letter to Edward Stratford (a patron) , 1 May 1772
  • Fools talk of imitation and copying, all is imitation
    • Letter to John Henderson 27th June 1773
  • We love a genius for what he leaves and mourn him for what he takes away
    • Letter to Henry Bate 20th June 1787
  • We are all going to Heaven, and Vandyck is of the company.
    • as quoted in Thomas Gainsborough, Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A. - publishers, George Bell and Sons, London 1903, p. 10

Letters to William Jackson[edit]

  • Though I'm a rogue in talking upon Painting & Love I can be serious and honest upon any subject thoroughly pleasing to me.
    • 2nd September 1767, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough ed Mary Woodall 1961
  • There is a genius (in our sense of the word) shines in all he (John Dunning) says. I begin to think there is something in the air of Devonshire that grows clever fellows I could name 4 or 5 , superior to the product of any other county of England
  • I am sick of portraits and wish very much to take up my viol da Gamba and walk off to some sweet village when I can paint landskips and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease.
    • 2nd September 1767, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough ed Mary Woodall 1961
  • Many a real genius is lost in the fictitious character of the Gentleman. I am the most inconsistent, changeable being so full of fits and starts.
    • 14th September 1767, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough ed Mary Woodall 1961
  • I hate being confined in Harness to follow the track, whilst others ride in the wagon, under cover, stretching their legs in the straw at ease and gazing at Green trees and Blue skies.
    • 4th June 1768, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough ed Mary Woodall 1961
  • I grow dauntless as I grow old, I believe any one that plods on in any one way, especially if that one way will bring him bread & cheese, will grow the same.
  • I must own your calculations & comparisons betwixt our different professions to be just, provided you remember that in mine a Man may do great things and starve in a garret if he does not conquer his Passions.
  • There is a branch of painting next in profit to Portrait and quite within your power without any more drawing them I'm answer for you having, which is Drapery & Landskip.
  • Whilst a Face painter is harassed to death a drapery painter sits & earns 5 or 6 hundered a year & laughs all the while
    • Undated letters to Jackson The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough ed Mary Woodall 1961

Quotes about Gainsborough[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quote
  • The calm of mid-day, the haze of twilight, the dew and pearls of morning are what we find in the pictures of this good, kindly, happy man.. ..as we look at them the tears spring to our eyes, and we know not whence they come. The solitary shepherd with his flock, the peasant returning from the wood with his bundle of faggots, the dark-some lane or dell, the sweet little cottage-girl at the spring with her pitcher, were the things which he delighted to paint, and which he painted with exquisite refinement, yet not refinement beyond nature.
    • John Constable, before 1830; as quoted in Thomas Gainsborough, Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A. - publishers, George Bell and Sons, London 1903, p. 7
    • Gainsborough had a lot of influence on early landscape-painting by Constable, as he said himself
  • Thomas Gainsborough was a native of Sudbury, Suffolk; his father was a tailor. Gainsborough, as a child, went to the Sudbury Free School, where he distinguished himself by making ink-drawings on the desks instead of writing his copies. This I had from Mr. Briggs.
    • Rev. Henry Scott Trimmer, c. 1860; as quoted in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, p. 57
  • As I have said, Turner did not believe that colour was reducible to system; and Gainsborough, when painting his 'Blue Boy', seems to have been of the same opinion. I think it was the remark of Mr. Field, when we were looking at that celebrated picture [ Blue Boy ], that Gainsborough's eye was truer than his head, since against his theory he had introduced a sufficiency of warm colours into the flesh tints to balance the predominating cold of the picture.
    • Rev. Henry Scott Trimmer, c. 1860; as quoted in The life of J.M.W. Turner, Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, p. 67
  • It is to Gainsborough's credit that he never attempted the so-called 'grand style' in painting as did Romney with such doubtful success; in that province Reynolds holds the highest rank of the artists of his day. Gainsborough in some respects was like a child; and this gives his character a certain attraction.
    • Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A., in Thomas Gainsborough', publishers, George Bell and Sons, London 1903, p. 2


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