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He moved in musical and theatrical circles, and among his friends were members of the Linley family, whose portraits he painted.At Bath he also met the actor David Garrick, for whom he had a profound admiration and whom he painted on many occasions.He early acquired some reputation as a portrait and landscape painter and made an adequate living.Gainsborough declared that his first love was landscape and began to learn the language of this art from the Dutch 17th-century landscapists, who by 1740 were becoming popular with English collectors; his first landscapes were influenced by , he anticipates the realism of the great English landscapist of the next century, John Constable, but for the most part fancy held sway.Throughout the 1760s he exhibited regularly in London and in 1768 was elected a foundation member of the Royal Academy.Characteristically he never took much part in the deliberations.Some sea pieces dating from the 1780s show a new kind of realism, harking back to the Dutch seascape tradition.During his last years Gainsborough was haunted by his nostalgia for Arcadia in the English countryside and painted a series of pictures of peasant life more ideal than real, for example, , is less idealized and more true to nature and looks forward to Constable in its treatment of the light breaking through the massive foliage.
The group in the cart is based on Rubens’s (1611–14) in Antwerp cathedral, which Gainsborough copied.Thomas Gainsborough, (baptized May 14, 1727, Sudbury, Suffolk, Eng.—died August 2, 1788, London), portrait and landscape painter, the most versatile English painter of the 18th century.Some of his early portraits show the sitters grouped in a landscape ( Gainsborough was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a maker of woolen goods.In spite of the demand for portraits, he continued to paint landscapes.
In 1761 he sent a portrait of Earl Nugent to the Society of Artists, and in the following year the first notice of his work appeared in the London press.
When he was 13, he persuaded his father to send him to London to study on the strength of his promise at landscape.