Gainsborough: A Portrait

Gainsborough: A Portrait

by James Hamilton


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** Selected as a Book of the Year in The Times, Sunday Times and Observer **

'Compulsively readable - the pages seem to turn themselves' John Carey, Sunday Times
'Brings one of the very greatest [artists] vividly to life' Literary Review

Thomas Gainsborough lived as if electricity shot through his sinews and crackled at his finger ends. He was a gentle and empathetic family man, but had a volatility that could lead him to slash his paintings, and a loose libidinous way of speaking, writing and behaving that shocked many deeply. He would be dynamite in polite society today.

In this exhilarating new biography - the first in decades - James Hamilton reveals Gainsborough in his many contexts: the easy-going Suffolk lad, transported to the heights of fashion by a natural talent; the rake-on-the-make in London, learning his art in the shadow of Hogarth; falling on his feet when he married a duke's daughter with a handsome private income; the top society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by bringing the right people into his studio; the charming and amusing friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who nevertheless kept clear of the aristocratic embrace.

There has been much art history written about this chameleon of art, but with fresh insights into original sources, Gainsborough: A Portrait transforms our understanding of this fascinating man, and enlightens the century that bore him.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781474600521
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, Limited
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 448
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

James Hamilton is an art and cultural historian. His books include TURNER: A LIFE, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and A STRANGE BUSINESS: MAKING ART AND MONEY IN NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN, which in 2014 was named Art Book of the Year by the SUNDAY TIMES.

Hamilton was until retirement in 2013 curator of art collections and projects in Portsmouth, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds and the University of Birmingham, where he is a Fellow of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

Table of Contents

Illustrations xi

Acknowledgements xv

1 A portrait of Thomas Gainsborough 1

I Suffolk

2 Obliged to pink 9

3 Sepulchre Street 14

4 The very bird of the eye 19

5 Joshua Kirby 24

II London

6 Some light handy craft trade 31

7 Key to every man's breast 37

8 The makings of a rake 46

9 Hatton Garden 52

10 Go over the face very curiously 56

11 A marvellous time to be in London 62

12 Thomas and Margaret get married 71

III Suffolk again

13 Retreat to Sudbury 81

14 Mr and Mrs Andrews of Bulmer 95

15 They did not know his value till they lost him 105

16 Gainsborough de Ipswich 112

17 They say I'm a quarrelsome fellow 122

18 The painter's daughters, a butterfly, their cat, and a sad little girl 135

19 Freedom is the only manner: Gainsborough's landscapes 141

IV Bath

20 I pant for Grosvenorshire 153

21 That fluctuating city 164

22 The nature of my damn'd business 178

23 The foolish act 192

24 Zouns, I forgot Mrs Unwin's picture 203

25 In the painting room 217

26 At Wilton 232

27 The continual hurry of one fool upon the back of another: Howe, Dartmouth, Ligonier and a charming old Duchess 238

28 Friendship: 'Swear now never to impart my secret to anyone living' 249

29 A little flirtation with the fiddle 265

V London again

30 A source of much inquietude 275

31 Humphrey, Scheming Jack and Mary Gibbon 284

32 The Hon. Mrs Graham, and other good women 292

33 Margaret, Molly, Peggy, and an unfeeling churl 300

34 'Hey, Gainsborough, hey!: He paints the royal family 307

35 Whilst he breathes 319

36 Repaired with gold and silver 334

37 No apology can be made for this deficiency: Gainsborough and Reynolds 342

38 A sense of closure: Gainsborough's landscapes 349

39 From a sincere heart 354

40 Epilogue 361

Cast of Characters 364

Abbreviations to Notes 369

Notes 372

Select Bibliography 407

Index 409

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