Thomas Gainsborough was one of the most popular artists of the 18th Century. Though much of Gainsborough's income came from painting portraits, his real passion was for landscapes.
Gainsborough was a child prodigy. There are stories of him forging notes from his father to get out of school and go drawing in the countryside. At 13, he was sent to London to train as an artist.
Gainsborough was a charming and imaginative painter, and attracted wealthy clients as his reputation grew. They included the couple who posed for one of his most famous paintings, Mr And Mrs Andrews. This is as much a landscape painting as a portrait. Each detail of the composition is designed to show the couple's place in society.
Gainsborough was known for his fierce rivalry with Joshua Reynolds. Gainsborough took more risks with his painting, and painted in a less classical style. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy, but withdrew as a member in 1784 after a row about how his pictures were hung.
Other important works by Gainsborough include The Blue Boy and The Harvest Wagon.
Thumbnail credit: Thomas Gainsborough, Portrait of the Artist with his Wife and Daughter (detail), about 1748, oil on canvas, The National Gallery, London