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Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Painting of the Month (48) August 2014: Gainsborough

Mr and Mrs Andrews, Thomas Gainsborough c.1750
The National Gallery, London
This very interesting painting remained in the family of the sitters for two hundred years and did not become generally known until the twentieth century. It combines two genres of painting; the landscape and the conversation piece, usually showing a group of at least two people in an informal pose. Basically Mr Andrews is showing off his assets and I refer to his estate as well as his wife. She sits stiffly submissive; she too is a possession placed on a fancy Rococo-style bench. The dog in art is a symbol of loyalty.  
Thomas Gainsborough was only twenty-one when he painted this early masterpiece and it was quite pioneering in showing the realistic changeable elements of British weather.
Difficult to see in  the background (although if you can enlarge the picture you can see more clearly) are cattle and sheep on the right, middle-distance and I can just make out a couple of horses below the trees to the left. Mr Andrews has got his world under control and now he can relax although he doesn't appear comfortable holding the firearm.
Thomas Gainsborough, self-portrait 1754
Note the similarity to Mr Andrews.
One fascinating aspect of the painting is that a part of it is unfinished. Look at her lap. What could be intended for adding into that space. Embroidery? Knitting?
It was probably the hope that a small child would be added later.
Incidentally the oak tree which they stand in front of is still there today on the Essex-Suffolk border in Eastern England.
The marriage of this couple was not for love. It was a business decision that brought together two great estates. You are looking at Mr and Mrs Andrews Inc. They don't look happy do they?
As an experiment I am going to be mentioning the music that I am listening to (usually on Spotify or You Tube) as I post. Right now its Luciano Pavorotti duetting with Bryan Adams at Sydney Opera House in a 'live' recording of 'O Sole Mio'. Don't care for it much....


John said...

Great painting Bazza, a real lesson in how the other half lived back then.
A weird couple, Pavarroti and Bryan Adams? One can sing, one can't, I will leave it up to you to decide which is which!

bazza said...

Hi John. Yes it's a social history lesson as much as anything.
As for Bryan Adams, his success always surprised me!

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Not only does the man look like the artist, the wife also has a similar face. They are showing no passion and appear to be uncomfortable with each other.

Both the picture and the concert are an odd coupling of folks.

bazza said...

Good analysis Arleen! Also you were perceptive to link those two facts. I wondered if it was a good idea. I will keep it up for while longer at least: Listening to the original Pinball Wizard by The Who :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - this portrait appears very stilted doesn't it .. I like the Wiki quote: "I'm sick of portraits, and wish very much to take my viol-da-gam and walk off to some sweet village, where I can paint landskips (sic) and enjoy the fag end of life in quietness and ease" - seems appropriate ...

He certainly changed painting in England .. very interesting reading your take on the art-work and I love the original use of the word 'fag' ...

I shall enjoy seeing what music you're listening to .. I know someone who puts up Spotify linkings for their very avant-garde classical music recordings - that could help?!

Cheers - I love these takes on Painting of the Month .. Hilary

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. When looking at art there are at least two ways of interpreting; either skill and technique based or a socio-political view. It would be easy to create a Marxist critique of this work (even if one is not a sympathiser).
It is well known, as you demonstrate, that Gainsborough wanted to concentrate on landscape but painted portraits to earn a living. He has cheekily pushed his subjects to one side in this case, though.
Listening to; Eric Bogle's 'No Man's Land' (aka The Green Fields of France)See:

David said...

Hi bazza,
I really like this painting.
As you say, one could make a Marxist critique of it, so disdainful does it seem to be towards its subjects.
And, you're quite right, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews Inc. don't look happy at all!
Thanks bazza.
Best Wishes,

bazza said...

Hi David. Mrs Andrews seems to be looking at the artist as though he were her servant (and, of course, he was). She is well aware of her class superiority. Her Daddy had just provided her unlovely husband with a dowry consisting of most of what you see in the picture!

loverofwords said...

We have something called Pandora on the I Phone here. I don't usually listen to music while posting, but when I am painting. It is so interesting to really examine a painting more than once-there are so many details one can miss. That is the problem with visiting a museum and trying to look at too many--you see the forest but not the trees.

bazza said...

Hi Natasha. Anything ones experiences through the senses (in other words 'everything')will become less enjoyable if those senses are over loaded. Art is no different.
Listening to Albeniz on piano. I think it's something from the Espanola Suite.

Intelliblog said...

Despite the 'mariage de convenance' and the stilted poses of the couple, this is a great painting and highlights the great talent of the artist.
(I'm listening to the delightful Weiss Lute Suites: )
PS: Thank you for your kind words about my blog.

bazza said...

Hello Nicholas. I didn't focus on the excellent technical quality of this picture but I especially like the way that Mr Andrews' clothing is illuminated by the (late afternoon?) sunlight.
Your Blog is very absorbing and, also, I am a big fan of classical guitar and lute music.
As it's 6am I am not listening to any music now but I am going to put my headphones on and listen to your choice! Thanks for visiting.