Date of Birth: 1727
The leading portrait painter in England in the later 18th century. Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills and went to London to study art in 1740. He set up in practice in Ipswich about 1752 and in 1759 he moved to Bath, a fashionable spa, attracting many clients for his portraits. He gained a national reputation and was invited to become one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1769. He returned to London and exhibited portraits of the celebrities of the day. He painted the portraits of King George III and received many royal commissions. Despite his recognition, Gainsborough preferred landscapes to portraits and in his later years, he often painted relatively simple, ordinary landscapes. He died of cancer in 1788 at the age of 61. Much of his work is held by The National Gallery in London, who state that "the feathery brushwork of his mature work and rich sense of colour contribute to the enduring popularity of his portraits." Unlike his great rival, Sir Joshua Reynolds, he avoids references to Italian Renaissance art or the antique, and shows his sitters in fashionable contemporary dress.