Last year on this day, I wrote about the great British painter Thomas Gainsborough who was born in 1727. But it was a very short article and I can think of no one more deserving to talk about in a bit more depth. He was mostly a portrait painter by trade and his best known work is The Blue Boy. It is a remarkable painting, especially for the way it renders the light on the rumpled clothing.
But Gainsborough wasn’t fond of his portrait paintings. I’m guessing, but I suspect that he didn’t especially like having to deal with the rich patrons he was forced to work so closely with. What he wanted to do, and did do at the end of his life was work on landscapes. In this way, I suspect that he anticipated Romanticism, although without all its annoying baggage. If you look at his early portraits, you will often see quite impressive backgrounds. He wasn’t inclined to paint people sitting in a chair in a drawing room.
Because I am very sentimental, my favorite piece by Gainsborough is Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher. It was painted during the last years of his life. It is a narrative painting although without any symbolic content as in William Bouguereau The Broken Pitcher. Sometimes, a broken pitcher is just a broken picture:
Happy birthday Thomas Gainsborough!