The Honourable Mrs Graham Thomas Gainsborough Buy Art Prints Now
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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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The Honourable Mrs Graham is a full-length portrait by Thomas Gainsborough born in Sudbury, Suffolk. Mary Cathcart was born the second daughter of 9th Baron Cathcart in 1757. Cathcart was the Ambassador to Catherine the Great. Mary Cathcart was an admirable and intelligent young woman and she had several suitors. She later married Thomas Graham, a young Scottish landowner in 1974.

The portrait is among the first works in the Gallery’s collection, thanks to a generous donation and a story that was both sad and romantic. The painting was highly praised during the time it was exhibited in 1792. This secured the artist's status as an icon at the contemporary beauty. Her beauty is enriched by the accessories and costume of the seventeen-century style. The portrait shows a beautiful nineteen-year-old shortly after being wedded in a flowing off-white and red gown. The Honourable Mrs Graham holds her dress in one hand and a white feather in the other, leaning beside a grand column, brightened and pale amid a dark landscape and her home.

The portrait was later bequeathed to the National Gallery from a descendant with a binding condition that it never leaves Edinburgh. The materials used in this particular painting include paint on canvas. The early work of Gainsborough shows the joy and ability to use paint that resembles that of Hogarth. He may have learnt the ability to define tone and texture with the simplicity of light from George Lambert. Gainsborough saw no need for Renaissance and classical art because he was inspired by Van Dyck's flamboyant paintings.

Gainsborough artistic and temperamental style set him apart from his rival Reynolds. His skill of spontaneity and frailty is perfect to conjuring the good looks of the Honourable Mary Graham dressed in a Van Dyck-style outfit and a splendid hat. He exposed the society beauty in a distant, reserved and vulnerable manner. In his artistic work, Gainsborough favoured landscapes to portraits. The poetic mood and the eighteen-century style and elegance gave the portrait a timeless appeal. The Scottish National Gallery closely associates with the portrait.