Karl Friedrich Abel
2 of 5 portraits of Karl Friedrich Abel
- Extended Catalogue Entry
Karl Friedrich Abel
by Thomas Gainsborough
oil on canvas, circa 1765
49 7/8 in. x 39 7/8 in. (1267 mm x 1013 mm) overall
Purchased with help from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1987
Sitterback to top
- Karl Friedrich Abel (1723-1787), Composer and concert impresario. Sitter in 5 portraits.
Artistback to top
- Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), Portrait and landscape painter. Artist associated with 262 portraits, Sitter in 8 portraits.
This portraitback to top
One of the last of the great viola da gamba virtuosi, Abel arrived in London in 1759 and was famous for the subscription concerts which he organised with Johann Christian Bach at the Hanover Square Rooms. Abel and Gainsborough were close friends who shared a passion for the viola da gamba and a love of life. Gainsborough became a skilful performer on the instrument and his careful portrayal of the underhand grip of the bow in this portrait reflects his understanding. In return for his teaching Abel received some paintings and many drawings by his friend. On Abel's death Gainsborough said, 'I shall never cease looking up to heaven the little while I have to stay behind - in hopes of getting one more glance of the man I loved from the moment I heard him touch the string'.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Ingamells, John, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, 2004, p. 2
- Rogers, Malcolm, Master Drawings from the National Portrait Gallery, 1993 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 5 August to 23 October 1994), p. 46
- Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 2
Events of 1765back to top
Current affairsGeorge Grenville is dismissed as Prime Minister. He is succeeded by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham.
Isle of Man is brought under British control.
Stamp Act requires that printed materials in the colonies, such as legal documents and newspapers, are produced on paper made in London carrying an embossed revenue stamp.
Art and scienceNevil Maskelyne becomes Astronomer Royal.
Writer Samuel Johnson publishes his edition of Shakespeare.
Inventor James Watt makes a breakthrough in the development of the steam engine by constructing a model with a separate condenser.
Judge and politician William Blackstone publishes his influential work Commentaries on the Laws of England.
InternationalRobert Clive secures the rights for the East India Company to collect taxes in Bengal from Mughal Emperor Shah Alam.
American campaigners against the Stamp Act organise themselves as the Sons of Liberty in Massachusetts and New York.
Tell us more
Help us conserve a portrait of a female adventurer, poet and medical pioneer