The Art of Thomas Gainsborough: "A Little Business for the Eye" (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) (英語) ハードカバー – 2000/2/9
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Highly illustrated, this book offers an account of the artist's rich and varied life, his diverse output and reveals his career and art as characteristic of the problems, dilemmas and situations that affected other painters during a time of rapid commercial and technological development and change.
Michael Rosenthal holds a chair in the history of art at the University of Warwick. His other books include Constable: The Painter and His Landscape, published by Yale University Press.
While this book is roughly chronological, it is not a biography of Gainsborough, it is a biography of his work. Rosenthal traces Gainsborough's art from his beginings in Sudbury, his training and apprenticeship, early work in London, move to Bath as a better market to make money and perfect his skill as a portrait painter, and final move to London, resulting in his popularity as a portrait painter, establishment as a painter-courtier to the Royal Family and unofficial portraitist to members of the same,the near annual battles with the hanging commitee of the Royal Academy on the proper hanging of his submitted works, which led to his breaking with the academy as a member, his failures to sell many of his beloved landscape paintings, and his first serious attempt to create a historical painting in the final months of his life.
Original to this work on Gainsborough is the central theme that Gainsborough, like his fellow English artists, had to paint to the market demands, which in England meant portraits sold, while landscapes and history paintings generally did not. That meant pleasing the clientele without "selling out," something Gainsborough found sometimes difficult to do. Artists also painted differently, often using brighter colors and altering the paintings afterwards, to get their work noticed at the annual Royal Academy exibitions. Rosenthal includes illustrations of these overcrowded exibitions(both in paintings exibited hung floor to ceiling, and the crowds of people viewing them)to give the reader an idea of why Gainsborough and other artists were often unhappy with the hanging committees decisions on where their paintings were hung.
Most fascinating is the chapter "Faces and Lives" where Rosenthal compares and contrasts not only Gainsborough's multiple portraits of the same subject, but also with portraits of the same subject done by his rival, and President of the Royal Academy, Sir Josah Reynolds. Reynold's more often painted his sitters in a historic style with the sitters' faces sometimes altered so that acquintances didn't recognize them while Gainsborough's sitters were easily recognizable, if flattered. The prime example of this differences between the two painters are their portraits, of the actress Sarah Siddons, reproduced side by side in the book. Reynolds painted her as the "Tragic Muse", on a throne-like chair, clad in classical draperies. Gainsborough's slightly later portrait depicted her perched on a dainty French chair, dressed in the latest fashion, gazing off into space(contemplating her newest role, perhaps?)with the only clue to her career, a crimson curtain draped as background.