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Biography of Thomas Gainsborough

Portrait of Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough was an eighteenth century painter particularly of portraits.

When and Where was he Born?

14th May 1727, Sudbury, Suffolk, England.

Family Background:

Thomas Gainsborough was the youngest and fifth son of John Gainsborough a maker of woolen goods and Mary Burroughs. One of nine children in total.


Apprenticed to the French engraver Hubert Francois Gravelot in London. Also worked with Francis Hayman.

Timeline of Thomas Gainsborough:

1740-6: Gainsborough goes to London to work with French engraver Gravelot.

1746: On 15th July he marries Margaret Burr at Dr Keith’s Chapel in Mayfair, London and they move to Hatton Garden, London.

1748: “The Charterhouse” is the last picture of his apprenticeship period. HE paints the world famous “Mr and Mrs Andrews”.

Mr and Mrs Andrews. 1748. National Gallery, London
Mr and Mrs Andrews. 1748. National Gallery, London

1749: Gainsborough returns to Live in Sudbury, Suffolk and lives at Friar’s Street.

1750: Birth of his daughter Mary.

1751: Birth of daughter Margaret. The family move to live in Foundation Street, Ipswich.

1752: Gainsborough set up as a portrait painter at Ipswich.

1760: He moves to Bath where the family rent a large house in Abbey Street.

1761: Gainsborough sends paintings to the newly formed Society of Artists in London.

1766: The family moves to a house on The Circus, Bath.

1768: He paints “Viscount Kilmorey (National Gallery, London). He is invited to become a Foundation Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London of which Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first President.

1772: He takes on his nephew as an apprentice.

1773: Gainsborough quarrels with the Royal Academy of Arts about the way they hung his pictures and stopped sending work to them.

1774: The family move permanently to London and live at Schomberg House, Pall Mall. He paints “Mary Countess Hume” (Kenwood Collection, London).

1770: He paints “The Harvest Wagon” (Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham).

1777: He paints “The Watering Place” (National Gallery, London). He begins sending work once more to the Royal academy of Arts.

1783: Gainsborough makes a tour of the Lake District during the summer with his friend from Ipswich, Samuel Kilderee. He visits Antwerp, Belgium in September.

1784: He quarrels once more with the Royal Academy of Arts largely about the place given to “The King’s Daughters” and begins to hold annual exhibitions of work in his own studio.

When and Where did he Die?

2nd August 1788, London, England of cancer.

Age at Death:



15th July 1746 to Margaret Burr at Dr Keith’s Chapel in Mayfair, London.

Site of Grave:

St. Anne’s Church, Kew Green, Kew, Surrey, England.

Places of Interest:

(Note the following list is by no means complete but gives a flavour of his work)


Painted “The Blue Boy” at No 17, The Circus, Bath. (Rented House).
Bristol Art Gallery.


Windsor Castle.


Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham.


Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.


Woburn Abbey.


Burrghley House, Stamford.


National Gallery.
National Portrait Gallery.
Tate Britain.
Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly.
Victoria and Albert Museum.
Dulwich Picture Gallery.
Kenwood House.


Norwich Castle Museum.


Gainsborough’s Birthplace Museum, Sudbury, Ipswich.


Upton House.


Stourhead, Warminster.


Temple Newsham House, Leeds.
Castle Howard.
Harewood House.


Drumlanrig Castle.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.


Powis Castle, Welshpool.


Ulster Museum, Belfast.