Elizabeth Wrottesley Thomas Gainsborough Buy Art Prints Now
from Amazon

* As an Amazon Associate, and partner with Google Adsense and Ezoic, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
Email: [email protected] / Phone: +44 7429 011000

This portrait is of a nineteen-year-old, Elizabeth Wrottesley. The piece reflects the French influences Gainsborough would have felt in his training by Huguenot and Hubert-François Bourguignon. In the 1760s, Gainsborough had moved to Bath, where he had a successful practice. He had restricted his commissions because of failing health.

However, after meeting the Duke of Bedford, who was the sitter’s uncle, he insisted he could not resist the honour and potential for further benefits. Painting many portraits of the Wrottesley-Bedford family, the sheer volume of pieces suggest they must have been in Bath on holiday. The sitters included Elizabeth and her sister, Betty. Famous for beauty the sister later married the Prime Minister of England, in 1969. A similar painting featuring Elizabeth, in a pose that is faintly different, is in Woburn Abbey under the possession of the Duke of Bedford.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was a British landscape and portrait artist, printmaker and draughtsman. As well as his competitor, Sir Joshua Reynolds, he is recognised as one of the most influential painters of the 18th century. Although he was a renowned portrait painter, he in fact gained more satisfaction from landscape painting. He is given credit as the founder of the 18th-century British landscape school, he was also the forefather of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

The painter has been described as both one of the most technically talented and experimental of his time. His painting technique was memorable for the speed at which he painted. He drew inspiration from observations of nature rather than formal academic sources. Paintings from the artist were valued for their poetic sensibility, Constable stated they could bring tears to your eyes, without knowing the reason the tears are there. Gainsborough fondness of landscapes is clear by his merging of the portrait figures with the scenes in the background. At one point, he claimed to be tired of drawing portraits and dreamed of moving to a quaint village to paint landscapes. A light palette and easy economical strokes became characteristic of his later works.