Enfilade

New Book | Gainsborough: A Portrait

Posted in books by Editor on July 12, 2017

From Weidenfeld & Nicolson:

James Hamilton, Gainsborough: A Portrait (London: W&N, 2017), 448 pages, ISBN: 978 147460 0521, £25.

Frank, lucid and modern, this is a fresh portrait of Thomas Gainsborough, the most sensuous artist of the eighteenth century. Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) lived as if electricity shot through his sinews and crackled at his finger ends. He was a gentle and empathetic family man but had a volatility that could lead him to slash his paintings and a loose libidinous way of speaking, writing, and behaving that shocked many deeply. He would be dynamite in polite society today.

In this exhilarating new biography—the first in decades—James Hamilton reveals Gainsborough in his many contexts: the easy-going Suffolk lad, transported to the heights of fashion by a natural talent; the rake-on-the-make in London, learning his art in the shadow of Hogarth; falling on his feet when he married a duke’s daughter with a handsome private income; the top society-portrait painter in Bath and London who earned huge sums by bringing the right people into his studio; the charming and amusing friend of George III and Queen Charlotte who nevertheless kept clear of the aristocratic embrace.

There has been much art history written about this chameleon of art, but with fresh insights into original sources, Gainsborough: A Portrait transforms our understanding of this fascinating man and enlightens the century that bore him.

James Hamilton is an art and cultural historian. His books include Turner: A Life; Faraday: The Life, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize; and A Strange Business: Making Art and Money in Nineteenth-Century Britain, which in 2014 was named Art Book of the Year by The Sunday Times. Hamilton was, until retirement in 2013, curator of art collections and projects in Portsmouth, Wakefield, Sheffield, Leeds, and the University of Birmingham, where he is a Fellow of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

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