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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Thomas Gainsborough was a famous British painter who was best known for depicting portraits within a landscape scene, which was very unusual during that period.

Thomas Gainsborough established himself as one of the most influential artists in British history and is well remembered for adding innovation to existing traditional painting techniques.

The portrait painting shown here is The Honourable Mrs Graham from 1777. It is currently owned by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

This website offers great detail on the life and career of Gainsborough, as well as featuring many of his most famous oil paintings.

Blue Boy is undeniably the most popular work to have come from the career of Thomas Gainsborough, though his list of paintings is extensive and many others are also well worth studying in their own right.

Besides his portraits-in-landscapes, there are also many landscape paintings here too which don't feature any figures in them and compare well against other notable British landscape painters like Constable and Turner. There is also some similarity between Thomas Gainsborough and fellow British artist, Joshua Reynolds.

Thomas Gainsborough originally came from Sudbury in Suffolk and is certainly one of the most famous East Anglian painters.

Gainsborough came to prominence in the 18th century but his reputation as a skilled painter remains just as strong today and many of his finest works remain on display in the significant art galleries and museums of the English capital, London.

Several of his paintings sit comfortably besides other great painters such as Turner, Constable and Reynolds who are also significantly represented within these British institutions.

Gainsborough received training at an English school headed by George Stubbs who a generation earlier had created an impressive reputation of his own, with paintings such as Whistlejacket and other impressive depictions of horses and dogs. William Hogarth was another British artist, best known for his politically sensitive themes.

Hogarth's school helped to develop the early sketching skills of Gainsborough and turn him into the fully fledged artist that he later became. Francis Hayman was directly influential on the young Gainsborough whilst working here as a tutor.

The Blue Boy

Blue Boy features a highly striking portrait from 1770 which now sits in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

Indeed, there was great disatisfaction within Britain when this painting was sold abroad and it remains one of the country's most famous works from the 18th century and many felt more should have been done to keep it in the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, it is generally accepted that modern American contemporary artist, Robert Rauschenberg, decided to become a painter solely on the basis of seeing Blue Boy for the first time.

Paintings from the career of Gainsborough, such as Blue Boy and Mr and Mrs Andrews, are today extremely popular for those looking to add some classic British art to their own homes as reproduction copies. Framed reproductions tend to best suit the 18th century artists like Gainsborough, but orders can be very varied covering posters, art prints and stretched canvases.

All of the links provided within offer you the chance to buy your own reproduction from trusted retailer who we regularly use ourselves.

Mr and Mrs Andrews

Mr and Mrs Andrews is the best example from Gainsborough for highlighting his unusual approach of producing portraits within landscape background scenes but this method quickly drew appreciation with many who would happily offer large commissions to an artist capable of capturing on canvas both their own status and image, plus also some of the land that they own, giving a highly complementary finish.

Wooded Landscape

Wooded Landscape is a fine example of hos Thomas Gainsborough was highly skilled as a landscape painter and that he probably could have impressed just with this style, even before he began to add full length portraits into the foreground to create his signature style.

Some artists felt contented to limit themselves entirely to landscape paintings, such as John Constable, but Gainsborough wanted to bring a little variety to his work over the years in order to keep his enthusiasm and freshen up his ideas.

Rivalries within art are rarely as well known as that of Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds who were competing as prominent artists of their generation, with the latter becoming president of the National Academy at one stage, which instantly proved a distasteful decision from the opinion of Thomas Gainsborough.

Joshua Reynolds was seen solely as a portrait painter whilst Gainsborough achieved success both here and also with landscape art. Richard Wilson was another who beared similarities to Gainsborough's paintings but the two were not as significant rivals.

River Landscape

River Landscape is slightly unusual for Gainsborough and features normal people going about their daily lives which was much more common to see in careers of artists like the Bruegels, but less so with Gainsborough who prefered high paying commissions for portraits of notable individuals.

River Landscape features livestock being carted across a bridge in an uncomfortable and highly believable scene as others look on whilst enjoying the sunshine which floods the background of this painting.

River Landscape is an example of how Gainsborough could produce beautiful flickering seascapes as well as combining them into landscapes too.

The painting above also shows how far Gainsborough got in accurately depicting animals which is a skil which demands specialist knowledge and is quite different to the full length portrait painting of normal people, as seen in most other of his works.

List of Famous Thomas Gainsborough Paintings

Please see below for a summarised list of the best Gainsborough paintings that are featured throughout this website.

  • William Wollaston
  • The Woodcutters Return
  • King George III
  • Mr and Mrs Andrews
  • The Blue Boy
  • The Watering Place
  • The Mall
  • St Marys Church Hadleigh
  • Shepherd Boys with Dogs Fighting
  • Linley Sisters
  • Landscape with Cattle
  • Marsham Children
  • Lord Ligonier
  • River Landscape
  • Rocky Coastal Scene
  • The Cottage Door
  • The Morning Walk
  • Queen Charlotte
  • Mrs Sheridan
  • James Christie
  • Augustus John Third Earl of Briston
  • Portrait Of Colonel John Bullock
  • Lord Vernon
  • Ann Ford
  • William Poyntz
  • Portrait of a Lady in Blue
  • Carl Friedrich Abel
  • Cottage Girl with Dog and Pitcher
  • Elizabeth Wrottesley
  • John Plampin
  • Countess Mary Howe
  • Hon Frances Duncombe