Wednesday 6 December 2017

Gainsborough’s Family Album, National Portrait Gallery, London
22 November 2018 – 3 February 2019

The National Portrait Gallery London is to bring together for the first time all twelve surviving portraits of Thomas Gainsborough’s daughters in a major new exhibition, Gainsborough’s Family Album, opening on 22 November 2018, it was announced today 6 December 2017. The portraits, which trace the development of the Gainsborough girls from playful young children to fashionable adults, include such famous images as The Artist’s Daughters chasing a Butterfly (c.1756)and The Artist’s Daughters with a Cat, (c.1760-1).  These will be seen alongside rarely seen paintings, such as the grand double full-length of Mary and Margaret Gainsborough as sumptuously-dressed young women (c.1774).

Featuring over fifty works from public and private collections across the world, Gainsborough’s Family Album will provide a unique insight into the private life and motivations of one of Britain’s greatest artists. The exhibition will include a number of works that have never been on public display in the UK, including an early portrait of the artist’s father John Gainsborough (c. 1746-8) and a drawing of Thomas and his wife Margaret’s pet dogs, Tristram and Fox.

Thomas Gainsborough, (1727–88), was one of Britain’s most successful eighteenth-century portraitists, but in his private correspondence he lamented that the need to earn his living from an endless parade of ‘damnd Faces’ prevented him for pursuing his devotion to landscape, the branch of art he most loved.  Nonetheless, he still managed to find the time, the energy and the desire to paint more portraits of his family members than any other artist of his or any earlier period is known to have produced. These include pictures of himself, his father, his wife, his daughters, two sisters and two brothers, a brother-in-law, two nephews, one niece, and a few more distant connections, not to mention his dogs. The vast majority of these works stayed with the family throughout the painter’s lifetime, by the end of which he had singlehandedly created an unusually comprehensive visual record of an eighteenth-century British kinship network, with several of its key players shown more than once, at different stages of their lives.

Gainsborough’s Family Album will chart Gainsborough’s career from youth to maturity, telling the story of an eighteenth-century provincial artist’s rise to metropolitan fame and fortune. However, alongside this runs a more private narrative about the role of portraiture in the promotion of family values, at a time when these were in the process of assuming a recognizably modern form. The exhibition will both offer a new perspective on Gainsborough the portraitist and challenge our thinking about his era and its relationship to our own.

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London, says: ‘We are delighted to be able to bring together so many of Gainsborough’s family portraits for the first time. The exhibition, which is unique in focusing on his paintings made for love, rather than for money, provides an unprecedented opportunity to see the intimate and personal aspect of Gainsborough’s portraits through this remarkable body of works depicting ‘ordinary people’ from a time when portraiture was almost exclusively confined to the rich, the famous and the upper classes’.

Professor David Solkin, Exhibition Curator and Emeritus Professor of the Courtauld Institute of Art says: ‘My hope is that Gainsborough’s Family Album will prompt new ways of thinking about Gainsborough, and about the family albums that so many of us create’.

Gainsborough’s Family Album is curated by Professor David Solkin, with support from Dr Lucy Peltz, Senior Curator, 18th Century Collections and Head of Collections Displays (Tudor to Regency), at the National Portrait Gallery. Professor Solkin is one of the world’s leading authorities on the history of British art. He joined The Courtauld Institute of Art in 1986 and completed his career there as Walter H. Annenberg Professor of the History of Art and Dean and Deputy Director. He has published extensively on eighteenth-century art and culture, is the author of four major books, the latest of which are: Painting out of the Ordinary: Modernity and the Art of Everyday Life in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (Yale, 2008); and Art in Britain 1660-1815 (2015). He has also curated several important exhibitions including, most recently, Turner and the Masters (2009).

Dr Peltz joined the National Portrait Gallery in 2001 as Curator of 18th Century Collections and has curated several permanent galleries, temporary exhibitions and displays including The Regency in the Weldon Galleries (2003-); Brilliant Women: 18th Century Bluestockings (2008); Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance (2010-11) and Simon Schama’s Face of Britain (2014-15), a project which resulted in a TV series, a -Viking-Penguin book and an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition will tour to Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, New Jersey from 23 February – 5 June 2019.

Gainsborough’s Family Album
22 November 2018 – 3 February 2019 at the National Portrait Gallery, London
Tickets with donation: £14.50 - £16.00
Tickets without donation: £12.50 - £14.00
Free for Members and Patrons

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated book featuring fifty beautifully reproduced portraits from public and private collections around the world. The book includes essays by exhibition curator David Solkin, Ann Bermingham, Professor Emerita of Art History at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Susan Sloman, independent art historian and author of Gainsborough in Bath. The publication will be priced at £29.95.

For further press information or interview requests, please contact:
Laura McKechan, Senior Communications Manager, National Portrait Gallery, Tel. 020 7321 6620 (not for publication)/Email [email protected]

National Portrait Gallery 2018 Exhibitions

Last Chance to See

Cézanne Portraits,
Until 11 February 2018

This majorexhibition brings together for the first time over 50 of Paul Cézanne’s portraits from collections across the world, including works never before on public display in the UK.

Paul Cézanne, (1839–1906), painted almost 200 portraits during his career, including twenty-six of himself and twenty-nine of his wife, Hortense Fiquet. Cézanne Portraits explores the special pictorial and thematic characteristics of Cézanne’s portraiture, including his creation of complementary pairs and multiple versions of the same subject. The chronological development of Cézanne’s portraiture is considered, with an examination of the changes that occurred with respect to his style and method, and his understanding of resemblance and identity. The exhibition also discusses the extent to which particular sitters inflected the characteristics and development of his practise.

Supported by

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2017
Until 8 February 2018

Last chance to see this year’s prize-winning photographs and those selected for inclusion in the 2017 exhibition of this prestigious photography award, which celebrates the very best in contemporary

portrait photography from around the world.

Sponsored by Taylor Wessing

New for 2018

Victorian Giants: The Birth of Art Photography
1 March – 20 May 2018

This major new exhibition brings together, for the first time, the works of four of the most celebrated figures in art photography, Lewis Carroll (1832–98), Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79), Oscar Rejlander (1813–75) and Clementina Hawarden (1822-65). These four artists would come to embody the very best in photography of the Victorian era. Their experimental approach to picture-making and radical attitudes towards photography have informed artistic practice ever since.Featuring striking portraits of sitters such as Charles Darwin, Alice Liddell, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Thomas Carlyle, George Frederick Watts, Ellen Terry and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Spring Season 2018 sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Tacita Dean: PORTRAIT
15 March - 28 May 2018

Tacita Dean (b.1965) is a British European artist based in Berlin and Los Angeles who works with many mediums but primarily in film. Dean first came to prominence in the 1990s and is now considered to be one of the most influential artists working today. This major new exhibition will focus on portraiture primarily through the medium of 16mm film. The exhibition will be the first in the Gallery’s history to be devoted to the medium of film, and also reveals Tacita Dean’s own longstanding and personal interest in portraiture as a genre. 

In an unprecedented collaboration, three major London galleries, the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Academy of Arts, and National Gallery, will open three distinct exhibitions with the artist Tacita Dean in 2018. The three exhibitions, Tacita Dean: LANDSCAPE, PORTRAIT, STILL LIFE, shaped by Dean’s response to the individual character of each institution,will explore genres traditionally associated with painting – landscape at the Royal Academy of Arts, portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery and still life at the National Gallery – seen through the contemporary prism of Dean’s wide-ranging artistic practice.

Spring Season 2018 sponsored by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

BP Portrait Award 2018
14 June - 23 September 2018

2018 will mark the Portrait Award’s 39th year at the National Portrait Gallery and 29th year of sponsorship by BP. This highly successful annual event is aimed at encouraging artists over the age of eighteen to focus upon, and develop, the theme of portraiture in their work. The increasingly popular competition has a huge international reach, with the BP Portrait Award 2017 receiving 2580 entries from 87 countries. The exhibition, which featured 53 paintings, was seen by 234,604people at the National Portrait Gallery

Sponsored by BP

Michael Jackson: On the Wall
28 June – 21 October 2018

This landmark exhibition explores the influence of Michael Jackson on some of the leading names in contemporary art, spanning several generations of artists across all media. Curated by Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, the exhibition will open in the summer of 2018 to coincide with what would have been Michael Jackson’s 60th birthday (on August 29, 2018).

Michael Jackson is one of the most influential cultural figures to come out of the 20th century and his legacy continues into the 21st century. His significance is widely acknowledged when it comes to music, music videos, dance, choreography and fashion, but his considerable influence on contemporary art is an untold story. Since Andy Warhol first used his image in 1982, Jackson has become the most depicted cultural figure in visual art by an extraordinary array of leading contemporary artists. For the first time, Michael Jackson: On the Wall will bring together the works of over forty of these artists, drawn from public and private collections around the world, including new works made especially for the exhibition.

Michael Jackson: On the Wall is produced with the co-operation of the Michael Jackson Estate.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2018
18 October 2018 - 27 January 2019

The Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize is the leading international competition, open to all, which celebrates and promotes the very best in contemporary portrait photography from around the world. Showcasing talented young photographers, gifted amateurs and established professionals, the competition features a diverse range of images and tells the often fascinating stories behind the creation of the works, from formal commissioned portraits to more spontaneous and intimate moments capturing friends and family.

Sponsored by Taylor Wessing

Gainsborough’s Family Album
22 November 2018 – 3 February 2019
See main release

For all Press Office enquiries please contact: Laura McKechan, Senior Communications Manager, Tel 020 7321 6620 or email [email protected] or Billy Ward, Communication Assistant, Tel 020 7321 6435, [email protected]

To download Press images visit:

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