Gainsborough & the Theatre


Based on new research, this profusely illustrated book draws together for the first time a group of works from public and private collections to examine the relationship that Thomas Gainsborough had with the theatrical world and the most celebrated stage artists of his day.

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88) was linked with the stage through personal friendships with James Quin, David Garrick and Sarah Siddons, the most renowned actors of the eighteenth century. He painted notable portraits of these and twenty others, including dramatists, dancers and composers.

Not long after Gainsborough moved from Bath to London in 1774, the management of the Drury Lane theatre passed to the artist’s friends Richard Brinsley and Thomas Linley. At this time, London’s theatres were undergoing regular refurbishment to take account of technical innovations in lighting and stage machinery. At the King’s Theatre in Haymarket in 1778, the ‘elegant improvements’ included frontispiece figures emblematic of Music and Dancing, and were painted in monochrome by Gainsborough.

This publication firmly establishes the artist’s place within the theatrical worlds of Bath and London and shows why the art of ballet, and in particular Gainsborough’s sitters Gaetan Vestris, Auguste Vestris and Giovanna Baccelli, rose to prominence in 1780. It examines parallels between Gainsborough’s much admired painterly naturalism and the theatrical naturalism of David Garrick and Mrs Siddons, with whom he had personal friendships.

Gift Wrap Design

Thomas Gainsborough message card (£3.00)

Gift Wrap Design

Thomas Gainsborough message card (£3.00)

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Published 20th September 2018

ISBN: 978 1 78130 066 4

Illustrated with colour

Dimensions: 27.5 x 21.2 cm

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing