Archive for the ‘Art History Musings’ Category

Rediscovering Some Thomas Gainsborough   Leave a comment

I’ve been dipping into a book recently about the artist Thomas Gainsborough.  At the time I studied painting at school, most of the emphasis was placed on studying modern or contemporary work.  Classical painting was not particularly in fashion and it seemed more time was spent studying late 19th and 20th century masters…in particular the 20th century masters.   Nowadays classical painting is making a comeback and  I see a renewed interest in investigating artists of colonial times and earlier periods.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1728) was a British portrait and landscape painter whom I had always associated only with his painting titled The Blue Boy, but who in fact produced many more sensitive and intriguing works throughout the 18th century.  I particularly like the naturalistic portrayal of  Henrietta Vernon, Countess of Grosvenor….seen below.  Although women of the time often powdered their hair or wore wigs, she is shown with neither. Her gaze imparts intelligence and composure.

Although an unfinished sketch, I especially enjoy the direct gaze of the artist’s daughters in the work below, The Painter’s Daughters with a Cat, which is part of the collection of the National Gallery in London.  There is an energy about the piece that I find appealing as well.

The portrait below, of Mary, Countess Howe, shows precision and skill in the rendering of her garments and in conveying a sense of strength in the face of the subject as well.  She is shown out for a walk, striking a pose similar to that shown in works by Van Dyck and other artists.

These are just a few examples of Gainsborough’s work that I admire.  His work, even though it was executed over 200 years ago, still retains an immediacy about it which gives life to the subject matter and enables the viewer to connect with the gaze of a person living in the eighteenth century.  At times I feel as if I am seeing a contemporary person, but one who is just dressed in clothing of another time.