The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 145,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Portrait and landscape painter

Painter; worked in London 1746-48, Suffolk 1748-59, Bath 1759-74 and London 1774-88; founder member of the RA 1768; exhibited Society of Artists, London, 1761-68, RA (irregularly) 1769-83, and Free Society of Artists, London, 1774 and 1783; in portraiture, he observed, there must be ‘Variety of lively touches and surprising effects to make the Heart dance’.

‘His cranium is so crammed with genius of every kind that it is in danger of bursting upon you, like a steam-engine overcharged’ (David Garrick; E. Hardcastle, Wine and Walnuts, 1824).

‘James Christie, the auctioneer, often declared that the presence in the rooms of Gainsborough and Garrick, with their banter and good humour, added fifteen percent to his commission on a sale’ (J. Hayes ed., Gainsborough Letters, 2001).


This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.