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Portrait of Elizabeth Ives, Mrs Thomas Butcher, Half-Length, wearing a White Dress Edged with Gold
|Title:||Portrait of Elizabeth Ives, Mrs Thomas Butcher, Half-Length, wearing a White Dress
Edged with Gold
|Artist:||Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.(1727-1788) British|
|Detail:||Oil on canvas, feigned oval: 29 x 24 in. Frame:37x32 in. In a carved wood frame|
The portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough was born at Sudbury, Suffolk, the fifth son of a cloth merchant. He was apprenticed at the age of thirteen to a London silversmith, and was taught by Hubert Gravelot, a French book-illustrator.
By 1745 he had established his own studio in London. He married Margaret Burr in 1746, and by 1748 had taken up residence in Suffolk. He moved to Ipswich in 1752, and settled at Bath as a portraitist in 1759. He took as an apprentice his nephew, Gainsborough Dupont (1754-97) in 1772.
In 1774, established as a fashionable portrait painter, he moved to London, living at Schomberg House, Pall Mall. Despite his great success as a portraitist, he always maintained that he preferred painting landscapes.
Gainsborough exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1761 to 1769, and became a foundation member of the Royal Academy in 1768. He first exhibited there the following year, but in 1773 quarrelled with the Academy over the hanging of his pictures, and did not exhibit there again until 1777. In 1784 he again quarrelled with them and never again exhibited at the Academy, instead organising a series of annual
exhibitions in his studio at Schomberg House.
He received commissions from the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland in 1777, and from the King and Queen in 1781. Gainsborough died in London after a reconciliation with his great rival Sir Joshua Reynolds, who eulogised him at the Royal Academy. He is buried in Kew Churchyard. A posthumous sale of his pictures and drawings was held at Schomberg House in 1789.
Ellis Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London 1958, 1966
Mary Woodall (ed.), The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, revised edition, 1963
John Hayes, Thomas Gainsborough, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1980
John Hayes, The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, 2 volumes, London
The present portrait
The sitter was the wife of Thomas Butcher, son of Robert Butcher, who was steward to Gainsborough’s famous patron, John, 4 th Duke of Bedford (1710-1771). In 1759, Thomas followed his father’s profession as agent of the Duke of Bedford’s Oakley estate in Shropshire, and later became responsible for all the Russell estates in North Bedfordshire.
The present portrait, together with that of the sitter’s husband, Thomas, was painted in Bath in 1772. Gainsborough’s portrait of Robert Butcher, painted circa 1765, hangs in the Prado,Madrid.
By descent from the sitter until acquired by a private collector in the 1980s;Anon. sale, Sotheby’s, London, Important British Pictures – Paintings, Drawings, Watercolours and Portrait Miniatures, 24 th November 2005, lot 54, illustrated (sold £30,000)
Sudbury, Gainborough’s House, December 1988 to February 1989 (on loan)