William Vaughan puts Gainsborough's work into the context of contemporaneous social and political developments in Britain, and in particular the celebration of original genius in a time of burgeoning entrepreneurial commercialism. He also discusses thoroughly Gainsborough's life and work - his childhood in Suffolk; his 'apprenticeship' in London; his marriage and the birth of his daughters; his move back to Suffolk and the birth of his career; his move to Bath and his incredible success as a society portrait painter; his move to London in 1774 where he reached the peak of his career, despite falling out with the Royal Academy and not being appointed official painter to the King; and his death in 1778.
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(210mm x 150mm x 19mm)
Thames & Hudson Ltd
Publisher: Thames & Hudson Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
This is a fascinating look at an artist most famous for his beautiful depictions of 18th-century aristocrats. But, as Vaughan stresses, Gainsborough's elegance belies his painstaking draughtsmanship and, although his portraiture is best known, Gainsborough thought of himself primarily as a landscape painter and his landscapes were important precursors of the Romantic era. Vaughan's work charts Gainsborough's life from his youth in Suffolk through training in London to his emergence as a society artist in Bath and final return to London, where he received the recognition of Royal patronage. Every chapter is lavishly illustrated with Gainsborough's own paintings as well as those of his contemporaries and influences. Vaughan also examines the key social and political changes in Britain and shows how Gainsborough observed them keenly and reflected them in his work. Although a Methodist and a political conservative, Gainsborough seemed to thrive on controversy. He never shied from an argument - and indeed had several with the Royal Academy of Arts. Vaughan's discussion of Gainsborough's methods of painting is particularly interesting. He preferred to paint by very low light - in fact, when he painted portraits the room had to be darkened so that he could first get the general form before moving onto the detail. He was a master of detail and painted people as they were rather than as they might like to be. This is a scholarly and readable work, part biography and social commentary and part art history. As well as the 172 illustrations (68 in colour) there is a useful bibliography and details of collections containing Gainsborough's paintings. This is an excellent introduction to Gainsborough's life and works, and those familiar with 18th-century British painting will also find much here to interest them. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - William Vaughan
William Vaughan is Professor of the History of Art at Birkbeck College, University of London. Among his other books are British Painting: The Golden Age and Romanticism and Art, both of which are also in the World of Art series.