Thomas Gainsborough

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Thomas Gainsborough, Self portrait 1758-59; location: National Portrait Gallery London

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

Gainsborough, c. 1747: 'Drinkstone Park' (Cornard Woodland?), oil-painting
Gainsborough, 1748: 'Cornard Wood', oil-painting; - quote of the old Gainsborough, 1788: 'It is in some respects a little in the schoolboy stile - but I do not reflect on this without a secret gratification; for, as an early instance how strong my inclination stood for Landskip [landscape].. ..it was begun [in 1748] before I left school; - and was the means of my Father's sending me to London'
Gainsborough, c. 1748: ' Study for 'Cornard Wood' ', drawing on paper
Gainsborough, 1748-49: 'Mr and Mrs Andrews', oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery London
Gainsborough, 1748-50: 'Landscape in Suffolk', oil-painting; quote of Gainsborough, undated: 'I am sick of portraits and wish very much to take up my viol da gamba and walk off to some sweet village where I can paint landskips [landscapes] and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease'
Gainsborough, c. 1750: 'Portrait of a Woman', oil on canvas
Gainsborough, c. 1750: 'Portrait of Heneage Lloyd and His Sister', oil-painting
Gainsborough, c. 1750-55: 'Study of willows', drawing from a sketchbook
Gainsborough, 1754-56: 'Landscape with Milkmaid', oil on canvas
Gainsborough, undated: 'Forest landscape with mountain', chalk on blue paper
Gainsborough, 1760-61: 'The Painter's Daughters with a Cat', oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery London, room 35
Gainsborough, 1765: 'Portrait of Miss Eleanor Hobson', oil-painting
Gainsborough, 1768-72: 'Wooded Landscape with Cattle and Goats', drawing
Gainsborough, 1770: 'The Blue Boy' (probably a portrait of Jonathan Buttall), oil-painting
Gainsborough, 1771: 'Landscape with cottage and church', oil-painting
Gainsborough, c. 1773: 'Landscape with Cattle', oil on canvas
Gainsborough, 1783: 'Portrait of James Christie', oil-painting
Gainsborough, 1783: 'Portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, oil-painting on canvas; location: National Gallery of Art Washington
Gainsborough, c. 1784: 'A Costal Landscape', oil-painting; - quote of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1880-90s: 'if Gainsborough had had the good fortune.. ..of being taught in an Academy, we should not now regret what was perhaps his greatest deficiency, a want of precision in the form of his objects'
Gainsborough, c. 1784-88: 'Coastal scene drawing', brush drawing with grey and brown wash, with oil (varnished)
Gainsborough, c. 1785: 'Portrait of Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan' (wife of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, oil-painting
Gainsborough, c. 1785-88: 'Rocky wooded landscape with waterfall, castle and mountain', drawing in black chalk with stump
Gainsborough, c. 1786-87: 'Der Marktkarren / To the Market', oil-painting; - quote by Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A', 1903: '..peasantry whose beauty could never have existed - cottagers and their children, grouped around their doors or seated in their waggons.. .Here the magic of the painter's art has cast a spell over the simple denizens of the soil'
Gainsborough, c. 1787: 'Cottage Children / The Wood Gatherers', oil on canvas; - quote of Henry Bate, 1787: '..A pastoral innocence and native sensibility give inexpressible beauty to these charming little objects. They cannot be viewed without the sensations of tenderness and pleasure, and an interest for their humble fate.'
Gainsborough, 1788: 'Juliana (Howard) , Baroness Petre', oil-painting

Quotes of Thomas Gainsborough[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes of Thomas Gainsborough

1755 - 1769[edit]

  • I am favoured with your obliging letter, and shall finish your picture in two or three days at farthest, and send to Colchester according to your order, with a frame. I thank you. Sir, for your kind intention of procuring me a few heads to paint when I come over, which I purpose doing as soon as some of those are finished which I have [now] in hand. I should be glad if you'd place your picture as far from the light as possible; observing to let the light fall from the left.
    • Quote in Gainborough's letter, 24 Feb. 1757 from Ipswich, to a correspondent in the neighbouring town of Colchester; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 20
  • You please me much by saying that no other fault [in the portrait Gainsborough recently made and sent] is to be found in your picture than the roughness of the surface; for that part being of use in giving force to the effect at a proper distance.. ..I urn [earn?] much better pleased that they should spy out things of that kind than to see an eye half an inch out of its place or a nose out of drawing when view'd at a proper distance. I don't think it would be more ridiculous for a person to put his nose close to the canvas and say the colours smell offensive than to say how rough the paint lies; for one is just as material as the other with regard to hurting the effect and drawing of a picture. For Sir Godfrey Kneller used to tell them that pictures were not made to smell of..
    • Quote in Gainborough's letter, March 1758 from Ipswich, to a correspondent in the neighbouring town of Colchester; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, pp. 20-21
  • Do you consider, my dear maggotty sir [cosy-name for his friend], what a deal of work history pictures require to what little dirty subjects of coal horses and jackasses and such figures as I fill up with; no, you don't consider anything about that part of the story.. .But to be serious (as I know you love to be), do you really think that a regular composition in the Landskip [landscape] way should ever be filled with History, or any figures but such as fill a place (I won't say stop a gap) or create a little business for the eye to be drawn from the trees in order to return to them with more glee.
  • damn gentlemen, there is not such a set of enemies to a real artist in the world as they are, if not kept at a proper distance.. ..They think (and so may you for a while) that they reward your merit by their Company and notice.. ..if they don't stand clear, know that they have but one part worth looking at, and that is their Purse; their Hearts are seldom near enough the right place to get a sight of it..
  • ..though I'm a rogue in talking upon Painting and love to seem to take things wrong I can be serious and honest upon any subject thoroughly pleasing to me.
  • 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.
  • One part of a picture ought to be like the first part of a tune, that you guess what follows, and that makes the second part of the tune, and so I'm done..
  • [I] Pray do you remember carrying me to a picture-dealer's somewhere by Hanover Square, [London], and my being struck with the leaving and touch of a little bit of tree[?]; the whole picture was not above 8 or 10 inches high and about a foot long. I wish if you had time that you'd inquire what it might be purchased for..
  • I am much obliged to you for your last letter, and the lessons reed, before. I think I now begin to see a little into the nature of modulation and the introduction of flats and sharps ; and when we meet you shall hear me play extempore.. [his friend William Jackson of Exeter was composer and organist]
  • I'm sick of Portraits and wish very much to take my viols-da-gamba and walk off to some sweet village, where I can paint landskips [landscapes] and enjoy the fag - end of life in quietness and ease. But these fine ladies [very probably his wife and daughters] and their tea-drinkings, dancings, husband-huntings, &c, &c. &c., will fob me out of the last ten years, and I fear miss getting husbands too. But we can say nothing to these things you know, Jackson, we must jog on and be content with the jingling of the bells, only, d-[damned]-it I hate a dust, the kicking up a dust, and being confined in harness to follow the track whilst others ride in the waggon, under cover, stretching their legs in the straw at ease, and gazing at green trees and blue skies without half my 'Taste'. That's d-d [damned] hard. My comfort is I have five viols-da-gamba: three 'Jayes' and two 'Barak Normans' - Adieu.
  • ..as I met with Mr. (Dunning there. There is something exclusive of the clear and deep understanding of that gentleman most exceedingly pleasing to me. He seems the only man who talks as Giardini plays, if you know what I mean; he puts no more motion than what goes to the real performance, which constitutes that ease and gentility peculiar to damned clever fellows.. .He is an amazing compact man in every respect.. ..and besides this neatness in outward appearance, his storeroom seems cleared of all French ornaments and gingerbread work, everything is simplicity and elegance and in its proper place, no disorder or confusion in the furniture.. ..Sober sense and great acuteness are marked very strong in his face.. ..but there is genius (in our sense of the word). (It) shines in all he says. In short, Mr. Jackson of Exeter [his friend], I begin to think there is something in the air of Devonshire that grows clever fellows. I could name four or five of you, superior to the product of any other county in England.
  • to Joshua Kirby, Esq. - to be left at the Turk's Head, Gerrard Street, St. Ann's, London - Mr. President and Gentlemen, Directors of the Society of Artists of Great Britain. I thank ye for the honor done me in appointing me one of your Directors, but for a particular reason I beg leave to resign, and am. Gentlemen, your most obliged and obedient Humble Servant.
    • Quote from Gainsborough's letter, Bath, 5 Dec. 1768; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 397 (Appendix B)
    • 18 October 1768, Gainsborough was elected to a Directorship of the Society of Artists, and on the same day his old Ipswich friend, Joshua Kirby, was made President. Gainsborough, however, declined to accept office, and his letter of refusal must have grieved Kirby

1770 - 1788[edit]

  • and here I give it under my hand that I will most willingly begin upon a new canvas [after his first portrait of Lady Dartmouth was criticized and rejected]. But I only for the present beg your Lordship will give me leave to try an experiment upon that picture to prove the amazing effect of dress. I meant to treat it as a cast-off picture and dress it (contrary, I know, to Lady Dartmouth's taste) in the modern way; the worst consequence that can attend it will be her ladyship's being angry with me for a time. I am vastly out in my notion if the face does not immediately look like; but I must know if Lady Dartmouth powders or not in common. I only beg to know that and to have the [first] picture sent down [back] to me..
  • ..Your Lordship [Dartmouth], I am sure, will be sensible of the dress thus far, but I defy any but a painter of some sagacity (and such you see I am, my Lord) to be well aware of the different effects which one part of a picture has upon another, and how the eye may be cheated as to the appearance of size, &c., by an artful management of the accompaniments. A tune may be so confused by a false bass that if it is ever so plain, simple, and full of meaning it shall become a jumble of nonsense, and just so shall a handsome face be overset by a fictitious bundle of trumpery of the foolish painter's own inventing.. ..Lady Dartmouth's [second/repainted] picture will look more like and not so large when dressed properly..
  • When the streets are paved with brilliants and the skies made of rainbows I suppose you'll be contented and satisfied with red, blue and yellow.. ..how to satisfy your tawdry friends while you steal back into the mild evening gleam and quiet middle term[?]. I'll tell you, my sprightly genius, how this is to be done. Maintain all your lights, but spare the poor abused colours till the eye rests and recovers. Keep up your music by supplying the place of noise by more sound, more harmony and more tune, and split that cursed fife and drum.. ..he [Mr. Garrick] must feel the truth of what I am now saying, that neither our plays, paintings or music are any longer real works of invention, but the abuse of Nature's lights and what has been already invented in former times.
  • I wish you would recollect that Painting and Punctuality mix like Oil and Vinegar, and that Genius and regularity are utter Enemies.
  • Fools talk of imitation and copying, all is imitation.
  • Dear Jackson, - ..First and most unfortunately, I have been four times after Bach, and have never laid eyes on him.. ..but surely I shall catch Bach soon to get you an answer to your letter..
  • We love a genius for what he leaves and mourn him for what he takes away.
    • Quote in Gainsborough's Letter to Henry Bate, 20th June 1787
  • We are all going to Heaven, and Vandyck is of the company.
    • Quote in Summer 1788, as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A. - publishers, George Bell and Sons, London 1903, p. 10
  • It [the painting 'Cornard_Wood', painted in 1748 ] is in some respects a little in the schoolboy stile - but I do not reflect on this without a secret gratification; for, as an early instance how strong my inclination stood for Landskip [landscape], this picture was actually painted at Sudbury in the year 1748; it was begun before I left school; - and was the means of my Father's sending me to London. It may be worth remark that though there is very little idea of composition in the picture, the touch and closeness to nature in the study of the parts and minutia are equal to any of my latter productions. In this explanation I do not wish to seem vain or ridiculous, but do not look on the Landskip as one of my riper performances. It is full forty years since it was first delivered by me to go in search of those who had taste to admire it! Within that time it has been in the hands of twenty picture dealers, and I once bought it myself during that interval for nineteen Guineas. Is not that curious? - Yours, my dear Sir, most sincerely, Thomas Gainsborough.
  • It is my strict charge that after my decease no plaster cast, model, or likeness whatever be permitted to be taken. - 'Tho. Gainsborough'.
  • Dear Sir Joshua, - I am just to write what I fear you will not read - after lying in a dying state for 6 months [in reality much shorter]. The extreme affection which I am informed of by a Friend which Sir Joshua has expresd induces me to beg a last favor, which is to come once under my Roof and look at my things, my woodman you never saw, if what I ask now is not disagreeable to your feeling that I may have the honour to speak to you. I can from a sincere Heart say that I always admired and sincerely loved Sir Joshua Reynolds. 'Tho. Gainsborough'.
    • A last letter of Gainsborough to Sir Joshua Reynolds, End of July 1788; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 307
    • Gainsborough, on the occasion of that last visit, actually had many of his unfinished canvases brought to his bedside to show to Sir Joshua

undated[edit]

  • By God you are the only great man, except George Pitt, that I care a farthing for, or would wear out a pair of shoes in seeking after. Long-headed cunning people and rich fools are so plentiful in our country that I don’t fear getting now and then a face to paint for bread, but a man of genius with truth and simplicity, sense and good nature, I think worth his weight in gold - [signed:] 'Your Likeness Man'

Undated letters to William Jackson[edit]

Quotes from Gainsborough's undated letters to his friend William Jackson; taken from several sources
  • 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.
    • Quote in: Undated letters to Jackson, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. Mary Woodall, 1961
  • 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.
    • Quote in: Undated letters to Jackson, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. Mary Woodall, 1961
  • 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 & Land-skip.
    • Quote in: Undated letters to Jackson, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. Mary Woodall, 1961
  • Whilst a Face painter is harassed to death a drapery painter sits & earns 5 or 6 hundered a year & laughs all the while.
    • Quote in: Undated letters to Jackson, in The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, ed. Mary Woodall, 1961

Quotes about Gainsborough[edit]

sorted chronologically, by date of the quotes about Thomas Gainsborough

1740 - 1800[edit]

  • We have a painter here [in Bath ], who takes the most exact likenesses I ever saw. His painting is coarse and slight, but has ease and spirit. Lord Villiers sat to him before he left Bath, and I hope we shall be able to bring his picture to town with us, as it is he himself, and is preferable in my opinion to the finest unlike picture in the universe, though it might serve for a sign; he sate only twice. The painter's name is Gainsborough.
  • He made his first essays in art by modelling figures of cows, horses, and dogs, in which he attained very great excellence. There is a cast in the plaister shops of an old horse that he modeled which has peculiar merit.
  • ..to which and succeeding excursions the public are indebted for the greater part of the sketches and more finished drawings from time to time produced by that whimsical, ingenious, but very deserving artist. Mr. Gainsborough painted during these years several landscapes of extraordinary merit that were mostly executed by candle light, to which he was much accustomed.
    • Quote by Ozias Humphry c. 1770s, from his unpublished autobiographical memoir (in the possession of the Royal Academy, London); as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 390 (Appendix B)
    • Humphry, was then a young painter, but frequently accompanied Gainsborough in his summer afternoon rambles in the country round Bath
  • In Bath his general practice was in portraiture, in which he had peculiar excellence and frequently produced pictures of surprising resemblance and perfection. Likeness alone was all he avowed to aim at; from this concentration it must often have happened that although his pictures were exactly like and to the parties for whom they were painted, and their families, highly satisfactory at the time whilst the prevailing modes were daily seen and the friends approved and beloved in them, yet the satisfaction arising from this resemblance was lessening daily as the fleeting fashions varied, and were changing from time to time.
  • Exact resemblance in his portraits.. ..was Mr. Gainsborough's constant aim, to which he invariably adhered. These pictures, as well as his landscapes [around Bath ], were frequently wrought by candlelight, and generally with great force and likeness. But his painting room - even by day a kind of darkened twilight - had scarcely any light, and I have seen him, whilst his subjects have been sitting to him, when neither they nor the pictures were scarcely discernible.. ..and having previously determined and marked with chalk upon what part of the canvas the face [of the model] was to be painted it was so placed upon the easel as to be close to the subject he was painting; which gave him an opportunity (as he commonly painted standing) of comparing the dimensions and effect of the copy with the original, both near and at a distance. By this method, with incessant study and exertion, he acquired the power of giving the masses and general forms of his models with the utmost exactness. Having thus settled the groundwork of his portraits he let in (of necessity) more light for the finishing of them.
  • I had the honour to be acquainted with that truly British genius at Bath, and have more than once sat by him of an evening and seen him make models - or rather thoughts - for landscape scenery on a little oldfashioned folding oak table, which stood under his kitchen dresser, such an one as I have often seen by the fireplace of a little clean, country ale-house. This table, held sacred for the purpose, he would order to be brought to his parlour, and thereon compose his designs. He would place cork or coal for his foregrounds; make middle grounds of sand and clay, bushes of mosses and lichens, and set up distant woods of broccoli.
    • Quote of a letter of a veteran 'Amateur of Painting', 1890s; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 369
    • this Amateur of Painting gave an interesting glimpse of Gainsborough amusing himself with his model landscapes. The old amateur tried to help Dubourg, long an ingenious maker of cork models; in his letter he referred to the adaptability of cork, and declared that Gainsborough often used it in his table models


  • It was said of him [Gainsborough] that he was self-educated.. .In this self-instruction there is undoubtedly an animation in the pursuit, and self-gratulation in the success, that is flattering. But if Gainsborough had had the good fortune, which the present students have, of being taught in an Academy, we should not now regret what was perhaps his greatest deficiency, a want of precision in the form of his objects.
  • [painting by artificial light is (as Gainsborough frequently did, according to Sir Joshua) very advantageous and improving to an artist.
  • He [Gainsborough] even framed a model of landscapes on his table; composed of broken stones, dried herbs, and pieces of looking-glass, which he magnified and improved into rocks, trees, and water.
    • 2 quotes of Sir Joshua Reynolds in his 'Fourteenth Discourse', c. 1780-90s; as cited in 'Notes and Queries', Mr. Edward F. Rimbault, 1875; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 368-69
    • Gainsborough completed by candle-light his pictures of 'The Woodman', 'the Peasant Smoking at his Cottage Door', the 'Boy at the Fire', and the 'Boy and Cat'
  • If you paint for the connoisseurs, never attempt at simple elegance, picturesque ideas of nature, brilliancy of colouring, or taste in the grouping of your figures. Leave all this nonsense to the man in Pall Mall [where Gainsborough lived], who is so cursedly obstinate that instead of seeking for a manner in the Old School and giving you Athenian Temples and Roman Ruins in English Landscape, he fills his canvas with unthatched cottages and their barelegged inhabitants. This is vulgar nature - pray avoid it.
  • A landscape of uncommon merit has been painted lately by Mr. Gainsborough. It is a picturesque scene, and although limited in extent of country is beautifully romantic. It contains a rustic history that cannot fail to impart delight to every beholder. Three peasant children are introduced; one of them, a young girl, has an infant brother in her arms; the other, a little boy of about six years, appears to have been engaged in the task of collecting the broken branches of trees for fire-wood; he is resting on a bank in conversation with his sister. A pastoral innocence and native sensibility give inexpressible beauty to these charming little objects. They cannot be viewed without the sensations of tenderness and pleasure, and an interest for their humble fate.
  • This [the early painting 'Cornard Wood', 1748] is one of the first pictures Mr. Gainsborough produced; he painted it at Sudbury in the year 1748, at which time he was a schoolboy.. ..he appears to have found a preferable school in sequestered nooks, woody uplands, retired cottages, the avenues of a forest, sheep, cattle, villagers, and woodmen. These were the true sources for the cultivation of a mind so strongly impregnated with the seeds of fine fancy attached to the wild beauties of nature; and whose inclination for landscape was drawn forth by these rustic objects rather than by the example of any master whatsoever..
    • Quote of Henry Bate, in his article 'Mr. Gainsborough', 1788; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 297
    • Bate, always anxious to obtain news of Gainsborough's work, wrote to him for information about the early painting 'Cornard Wood', (1748)
  • This eminent painter, whose contempt for the follies of mankind kept pace with his acute observation of them, was so disgusted at the blind preference paid to his powers of portraiture that for many years of his residence at Bath he regularly shut up all his landscapes in the back apartments of his house, to which no common visitors were admitted. The landscape that first found its way into any collection was purchased of him by the late Henry Hoare, Esq., of Stourhead, on a friend's recommendation! and so little even then was the merit of Gainsborough duly estimated that Mr. Bampfylde, a dilettante in painting, being on a visit to Stourhead, offered to mend Gainsborough's sheep by repainting them, and was allowed to do so. They have been restored to their original deficiencies by the taste and good sense of the present possessor of that beautiful place [Sir Richard Colt Hoare ]
  • Many of our landscape painters have made their pictures by a receipt. Never having lived out of the metropols or seen any green thing except a pickled cucumber in an oil shop, they form their ideas upon the style of the old Flemish masters.. .Very different was the conduct of Mr. Gainsborough when he painted his landscape. The woods of Suffolk were his Academy, the trees were his models.. ..the sunburnt inhabitants of his native village were the figures which he contemplated and copied. When he painted this picture painting: 'Cornard Wood' he was not twenty years of age, but at this early period he saw and imitated Nature as she is.. ..here we see a landscape in which every tree, every bough, one may almost say every leaf, is a portrait.. ..it has the force of a sketch. The forms of the trees, the bark, the exuberantly rich foreground, the woodmen and peasants, the two asses, are perfectly English, and prove that when Mr. Gainsborough painted cattle or figures he did not apply to prints from Berghem, Cuyp, or Paul Potter, but delineated them from the figures which he saw. The picture is placed too near the eye, in a more elevated situation the distant view of the village in the background would keep its proper distance.
    • Quote about the early landscape 'Cornard Wood' by a critic in 'The Gazetteer', May 1790; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 300
    • the early painting of Gainsborough 'Cornard Wood' was on view when the Boydells opened the Shakespeare Gallery early 1790, and was noticed particularly in the 'Gazetteer' by an art-critic
  • Gainsborough was never in Italy, and to atone in some measure for the injury which that negligence might prove to him, he was in the habit of borrowing, and sometimes purchasing, works of that school as objects of study. One day, finding him attentively examining the fine picture of Mola that represents 'Jupiter and Leda' from which it was with difficulty he could be parted, we inquired what it was that so particularly caught his attention. 'It is this manner of painting' replied the modest artist 'which I shall never attain, for Mola appears to have made it his own by patent.'
    • Quote by Noel Desenfans (married with Margaret Desenfans c. 1790s, in his written note; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 391-396 (Appendix B)
    • Noel Desenfans claimed to have lived in the strictest habit of friendship until Gainborough's expiring moments

1800 - 1900[edit]

  • Thus it is that the works of the English landscape painters, until within a few years, are worthy of the places to which they are usually consigned; to ascend from the drawing-rooms of the mansions where they once were placed, to the apartments of the servants.. ..Gainsborough's sketches improved the general taste for English landscape composition; he taught the artists and amateurs how to select, and those who, before the appearance of his rude oaks and deep-rutted lanes, his rustic figures and moss-grown cottages and beams, were content to amuse themselves by making landscape compositions from prints, now left their painting-rooms to explore the scenery of their own country and to work from nature.
    • Quote of a writer in the 'Repository of Arts', 1813; as cited in Thomas Gainsborough, by William T, Whitley; New York, Charles Scribner's Sons – London, Smith, Elder & Co, Sept. 1915, p. 356
    • the writer emphasizes that before Gainsborough's day Engish artists and amateurs alike were content to make their landscape compositions from Italian, Dutch, and Flemish prints
  • 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.
    • Quote of 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 John Constable, as Constable told this himself
  • This great painter was not only an enthusiastic lover of music, but a respectable performer on the harpsichord. I have frequently heard my father speak of his performance on this instrument in terms of great praise.

Quotes of Rev. Henry Scott Trimmer, 1850-60s[edit]

Quotes on Gainsborough, from: Rev. Henry Scott Trimmer c. 1850-60s; as cited in 'The life of J.M.W. Turner', Volume II, George Walter Thornbury; Hurst and Blackett Publishers, London, 1862, p. 57-67
  • 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.
    • p. 57
  • I have heard my father's sister say, who knew him [Gainsborough] when she was young, that he was an odd, droll man, excessively fond of music, and that he played on the violoncello; in fact, there is no doubt of his understanding music, from the masterly way in which his figures hold their instruments, as Turner's figures do the fishing-rod.
    • p. 60
  • As I have said, he [Gainsborough] gave Joshua Kirby eight landscapes in oil, most admirable specimens. Thirty years ago, Emerson, the picture-dealer, offered my father fifty guineas a-piece for them, and pronounced them unique. These Turner.. .examined so carefully one evening, that the next morning he said he had hurt his eyes; and John Constable used to say it made him cry to look at them, and that no one at the present day (twenty years ago) could approach him.
    • p. 60
  • I have dwelt on his [Gainsborough's] early works, since picture-dealers.. ..always decry them, and say he never painted a picture fit to be seen till he left Suffolk - men who, place them in the green fields, cannot tell one tree from another. It is true his early works are less artificial and less academical, but they are far truer to nature, to elevated nature. His early pictures exhibit a remarkable variety of form in his trees; his oaks are inimitable; latterly, all his trees assumed one form; for he mistook system for nature.
    • p. 61
  • Gainsborough's Palette. - This I had from Mr. Briggs, but have lost it; still, as I have copied several Gainsborough's, I think I can furnish you with it. Yellows: yellow ochre, Naples }nllow, yellow lake, and for his high lights (but very seldom) some brighter yellow, probably some preparation of orpiment, raw sienna. Reds: vermilion, light red Venetian, and the lakes. Browns: burnt sienna, cologne earth (this he used very freely, and brown pink the same). He used a great deal of terra verte, which he mixed with his blues, generally with ultramarine. His skies are ultramarine. In his early pictures I could never trace other colours.
    • pp. 63-64
  • The texture of his pictures has been objected to. There is said to be a washiness and want of solidity in them not desirable to imitate. This may be true as regards imitation; but with Gainsborough's masterly execution, the thinness and docility of his vehicle is no small part of its merit. Had he painted in a fat unyielding material, the delicacy and playfulness of his pencil would have been lost, though it must be owned that unsuccessful attempts to obtain a good vehicle mark his period.
    • p. 66
  • ..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.
    • p. 67
  • ..and this reminds me of a dictum of Gainsborough I had forgotten. Joshua Kirby was strong in perspective, of which Gainsborough made very light, and used to say in his joking way that 'the eye was the only perspective master needed by a landscape painter'.
    • p. 67

after 1900[edit]

  • 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.
    • Quote of Lord Ronald Sutherland F.S.A., in Thomas Gainsborough', publishers, George Bell and Sons, London 1903, p. 2
  • The same may be said of Gainsborough's landscapes of Suffolk and Wiltshire in which he has introduced a peasantry whose beauty could never have existed - cottagers and their children, grouped around their doors or seated in their waggons quite as beautiful as his fair dames and gallants who flutter in the Mall, or walk in palace gardens. Here the magic of the painter's art has cast a spell over the simple denizens of the soil.

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