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Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan

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posted by Alec Frazier alias Autistic Reality on Monday 2nd of November 2020 07:38:29 PM

Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan West Building, Main Floor—Gallery 59 •Date: 1785-1787 •Medium: Oil on Canvas •Dimensions: oOverall: 219.7 × 153.7 cm (86½ × 60½ in.) oFramed: 251.5 × 185.4 × 14 cm (99 × 73 × 5½ in.) •Credit Line: Andrew W. Mellon Collection •Accession Number: 1937.1.92 •Artists/Makers: oArtist: Thomas Gainsborough, British, 1727-1788 Overview Elizabeth Linley’s beauty and exceptional soprano voice brought her professional success in concerts and festivals in Bath and London. After marrying Sheridan in 1773 she left her career to support and participate in her husband’s activities as politician, playwright, and orator. Sheridan’s work was immensely popular, and his witty plays, A School for Scandal and The Rivals, are a beloved part of today’s theatrical repertoire. Mrs. Sheridan is shown here at the age of thirty-one, a mature and elegant woman. Merged into the landscape, her gracious form bends to the curve of the trees behind her. Light plays as quickly and freely across her dress as it does across the clouds and the sky. The distinct textures of rocks, foliage, silk, and hair are unified by the strong, animated rhythms of Gainsborough’s brush. The freely painted, impressionistic style of Mrs. Sheridan’s costume and the windblown landscape reflect the strong romantic component in Gainsborough’s artistic temperament. However, his primary focus remains on his sitter’s face and on her personality. Her chin and mouth are firm, definite, and sculptural, and her heavily drawn eyebrows give her a steady, composed, and dignified expression. There is a hint of romantic melancholy in her eyes, with their slightly indirect gaze. Provenance The Hon. Mrs. Edward Bouverie [1750-1825, later Lady Robert Spencer], a friend of the sitter, Delapré Abbey, Northampton; by descent to her grandson, General Everard Bouverie [1789-1871]; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 2 March 1872, no. 110);[1] purchased by Alfred de Rothschild [1842-1918] for his father, Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild [1808-1879], Gunnersbury, Middlesex; by inheritance to his son, Nathaniel, 1st lord Rothschild [1840-1915]; by inheritance to his widow, Emma, Lady Rothschild; by inheritance to her nephew, Nathaniel Mayer Victor, called Victor, 3rd baron and later 3rd lord Rothschild [1910-1990];[2] sold 1936 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 26 April 1937 by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA. [1]The painting was added to the sale the day before by Edward Playdell-Bouverie, General Bouverie’s nephew and executor, and it does not appear in the printed catalogue. Michael Hall, curator to Edmund de Rothschild kindly provided this detail; see his “Rothschild Picture Provenances” from 1999 and letter of 27 February 2002, in NGA curatorial files. [2]Details of the Rothschild family inheritance were kindly provided by Michael Hall (see note 1); he cites relevant documents in The Rothschild Archive, London. Associated Names •Bouverie, Edward •Bouverie, Edward, Mrs. •Bouverie, Everard William, General •Christie, Manson & Woods, Ltd. •Duveen Brothers, Inc. •Duveen Brothers, Inc. •Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, The A.W. •Rothschild, Lionel Nathan de, Baron •Rothschild, Lionel Walter, 2nd Baron •Rothschild, Nathaniel Mayer Victor, 3rd Baron •Rothschild, Nathaniel Mayer, 1st Baron Exhibition History •1786—Gainsborough’s studio, Schomberg House, London, 1786. •1873—Works of the Old Masters, associated with Works of Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1873, no. 35. •1886—Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1886, no. 103. •1936—Gainsborough, Sir Philip Sassoon’s, 45 Park Lane, London, 1936, no. 8 (illustrated souvenir, repro. 75). •1980—Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Gallery, London, 1980-1981, no. 129, repro., color repro. 125. •1981—Gainsborough, Grand Palais, Paris, 1981, no. 57, repro., color repro. 77. •1988—A Nest of Nightingales: Thomas Gainsborough, The Linley Sisters, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1988, no. 3, repro., color repro. 44. •2002—Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788, Tate Britain, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2002-2003, no. 166, repro. •2006—Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760-1830, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, no. 135, repro. (shown only in London). •2010—Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, Cincinnati Art Museum; San Diego Museum of Art, 2010-2011, pl. 10 (shown only in Cincinnati). •2011—Presiding Genius: A Masterpiece a Month for a Very Special Year, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 2011, no catalogue. Technical Summary The medium-coarse canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground, the color of which is difficult to determine, is moderately thick and masks the weave of the canvas. There is a light pink imprimatura evident beneath the sky and the sitter, which is used as a middle tone. The painting is executed in liquid paint, blended wet into wet, applied in many layers in order to create a rich and sumptuous effect, with thin washes in free-flowing brushstrokes for the details. The painting is in excellent condition. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow slightly. Bibliography •1785—Morning Herald, 30 March 1785. •1785—Public Advertiser, 13 April 1785. •1786—Morning Herald, 30 December 1786. •1856—Fulcher, George Williams. Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.. 2d rev. ed. London, 1856: 226. •1880—Graves, Henry, & Company. Engravings from the Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. London [c. 1880]: no. 100 (mezzotint by James Scott, published 1878). •1898—Armstrong, Sir Walter. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898: 202, pl. 31; popular ed., London, 1904: 279, repro. opp. 164. •1915—Whitley, William T. Thomas Gainsborough. London, 1915: 201-202, 238-239, 257, 260, 265, repro. opp. 265. •1928—Whitley, William T. Artists and Their Friends in England 1700-1800. 2 vols. London, 1928: 2: 181. •1941—Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: nos. 285-286, repros. •1941—Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 70-71, no. 92. •1942—Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 15. •1944—Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 130, color repro. •1946—Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 55-57, color repro. •1949—Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 113, repro. •1958—Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Gainsborough. London, 1958: no. 613, pl. 256. •1960—Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 16, color repro. •1963—Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 218, repro. •1965—Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 54. •1966—Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:354, color repro. •1966—“The Women I Love: These Lovely Immigrants Are Part of Our National Treasure.” This Week Magazine (January 9, 1966): 10, color repro. •1968—European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 47, repro. •1975—European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 142, repro. •1975—Paulson, Ronald. Emblem and Expression. London, 1975: 218, 228, pl. 151. •1975—Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 494, color repro. •1982—Hayes, John. The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough. 2 vols. London and New York, 1982: 1:167, pl. 202. •1984—Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 354, no. 492, color repro. •1985—European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 163, repro. •1992—Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 103-106, color repro. 105. •1992—National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 152, repro. •1993—Miles, Ellen G., ed. The Portrait in Eighteenth-Century America. Newark, 1993: fig. 7. •1995—Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995: 942, fig. 26-19. •1997—Asfour, Amal and Paul Williamson. Gainsborough’s Wit, Indiana, 1997, no. 6, repro. •1999—Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. 2 vols. Revised ed. New York, 1999: 934, fig. 26-2. •2004—Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 274-275, no. 221, color repro. •2012—Secrest, Meryle. “Looking at Art: 18th Century Fox.” Art News 111, no. 7 (Summer 2012): 76-77, color repro. •2013—Christiansen, Carol, and Eleonora Luciano. “The evolution of Gainsborough’s portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan.” The Burlington Magazine 155, no. 1321 (April 2013): 238-242, figs. 24, 25, 30-32. From British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries: 1937.1.92 (92) Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan •1785-1787 •Oil on Canvas, 220 × 154 (86⅝ × 60⅝) •Andrew W. Mellon Collection Technical Notes The medium-coarse canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground, the color of which is difficult to determine, is moderately thick and masks the weave of the canvas. There is a light pink imprimatura evident beneath the sky and the sitter, which is used as a middle tone. The painting is executed in liquid paint, blended wet into wet, applied in many layers in order to create a rich and sumptuous effect, with thin washes in free-flowing brushstrokes for the details. The painting is in excellent condition. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow slightly. Provenance Mrs. Edward Bouverie [1750-1825], a friend of the sitter, Delapré Abbey, Northampton; by descent to General Everard Bouverie [1789-1871]. Baron Lionel de Rothschild [1808-1879], Gunnersbury, Middlesex, by 1873 (it was lent by him to the Royal Academy of Arts exhibition; see below); by descent to Victor, 3rd Baron Rothschild [1910-1990], who sold it c. 1936/1937 to (Duveen Brothers), London, from whose New York branch it was purchased 26 April 1937 by The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh. Exhibitions Gainsborough’s studio, Schomberg House, London, 1786. Works of the O Id M asters, associated with Works of Deceased Masters of the British School, Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1873, no. 35. Works by the Old M asters, and by Deceased M asters of the British School, Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1886, no. 103. Gainsborough, Sir Philip Sassoon’s, 45 Park Lane, London, 1936, no. 8 (illustrated souvenir, repro. 75). Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Gallery, London, 1980-1981, no. 129, repro., color repro. 125. Gainsborough, Grand Palais, Paris, 1981, no. 57, repro., color repro. 77. A Nest of Nightingales: Thomas Gainsborough The Linley Sisters, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1988, no. 3,14, repro., 37, color repro. 44. Elizabeth Linley (1754-1792), who in 1772 was escorted to France by Richard Brinsley Sheridan in order to escape the attentions of the blackguardly Major Mathews, married the playwright the following year. Mrs. Sheridan was a great beauty and a celebrated singer, appearing as the leading soprano at the Three Choirs Festival in 1771 and captivating London audiences in 1773; she was a member of a well-known musical family at Bath with whom Gainsborough was on intimate terms, and was painted by him on several occasions, three times at full length.1 As Whitley was the first to observe, the Washington picture was not the full length exhibited by Gainsborough at the Royal Academy in 1783,2 but a work upon which he was employed in the spring of 1785. Bate-Dudley established the identification with the Washington picture, giving no hint that it might be a reworking of an earlier canvas, when he wrote in the Morning Herald in March 1785 that “Mr. Gainsborough is engaged on a portrait of Mrs. Sheridan; it is a full-length. She is painted under the umbrage of a romantic tree, and the accompanying objects are descriptive of retirement. The likeness is powerful, and is enforced by a characteristic expression, which equals the animation of nature.”3 Another critic described her as “resting under the trees. “4 Although until nearly the end of her life the sweet-natured Mrs. Sheridan loyally supported her ambitious but feckless and wayward husband, she was as constantly in the country as he was in town ; delicate and consumptive, she declared, “God knows London has no Charms for me, and if I could draw the very few left to me that are Dear to my Heart around me, I should like to rest in some quiet Corner of the World and never see it again. “5 ‘Take me out of the whirl of the world, place me in the quiet and simple scenes of life I was born for,” she implored her husband.6 The Public Advertiser, in the erroneous belief that Gainsborough was reconciled with the Royal Academy, included the portrait of “Mrs Sheridan sitting in a wood” in a list of works that would be exhibited “if they are well finished”7 (a statement, incidentally, that rules out the possibility of it having been exhibited previously, in 1783). Gainsborough included the portrait in the exhibition held in his studio at Schomberg House at the end of 1786, but the picture was not quite finished to the artist’s satisfaction as Bate Dudley, writing in the Morning Her aid, said that the lambs in the background were still to be added, so that the picture would “assume an air more pastoral than at present it possesses.”8 The sitter’s sister-in-law, Betsy Sheridan, saw the portraits in Gainsborough’s exhibition, but “was not delighted with that of Mrs. Sheridan, tho’ he has alter’d the idea of making her a Peasant, which to me never appear’d judicious.”9 Although admitting that “Gainsborough was certainly still working on it in 1785,” Waterhouse maintained that the portrait was probably hung in the Academy exhibition of 1783 and that ‘‘it may have been begun as early as I774.”10 This portrait is a masterpiece in a style new to Gainsborough, marking the beginnings in British painting of a romantic approach to portraiture, which he continued in such works as The Morning Walk (National Gallery, London); Sir Thomas Lawrence was to take this romanticism to its furthest lengths. The abandon of Mrs. Sheridan’s hair, which curls right down to her waist, and the restless figuration of the gauze wrap that is intertwined with it are matched by the sketchiness and animation of the brushwork throughout the dress; further, the character of the brushwork in the hair and costume is taken up in the foliage of the trees, so that trees and figure form a broad and natural compositional flow. In contrast to such apparently similar earlier works as Mrs. Robinson (1781-1782; Wallace Collection), where the sitter is posed against a landscape, Mrs. Sheridan is not only reclining in the landscape, perched somewhat hesitantly on some rocks, but seems to be at one with her setting and with its mood, a mood of heightened, indeed agitated pastoral sentiment conveyed most vividly by the dramatic rays of the setting sun. At the same time the figure is kept in the foreground plane of the picture through the strong lighting of the smoothly and firmly modeled head, a head sadly wistful in expression. Mrs. Sheridan is at once portrait, fancy picture, and part of a landscape. Nicola Kalinsky has interpreted the work with great sensitivity. Mrs. Sheridan’s “desire for conjugal retrenchment in the country was never fulfilled. The painting, with its restless movement agitating the dress and hair of the still figure, seems to express this tension; it is not a scene, to requote Bate-Dudley, ‘descriptive of retirement.’ The face that looks out is no longer that of the self-possessed innocent of The Linley Sisters [1772].”11 A mezzotint by Gainsborough Dupont was not published. A grisaille by Dupont, 1970.17.122, seems to be a preparation for the mezzotint. A lithograph by Richard Lane was included in his Studies of Figures by Gainsborough, published 1 January 1825. Notes 1.“A large picture of Tommy Linley and his Sister,” which Gainsborough began in 1786, does not survive (the early nineteenth-century tradition that the Beggar Boy and Girl in the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, represents Miss Linley and her brother and may thus be the remains of that work is ill founded). A full-length portrait with her younger sister, Mary, is at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London (exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1772). A small oval dating to the late 17708 is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The full length sent to the Royal Academy exhibition of 1783 has not come to light. For the same exhibition Reynolds executed a full length of Mrs. Sheridan as Saint Cecilia, now at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire; and she was painted by Richard Samuel as one of the Nine Living Muses of Great Britain (National Portrait Gallery, London). 2.Whitley 1915, 201-202. A contemporary critic’s description of this work could fit the National Gallery’s portrait: “The piece is rich and well coloured and the drapery is finely touched” (St. James’s Chronicle, 1 May 1783). However, the picture was not one of Gainsborough’s portraits that attracted much critical attention at the Royal Academy exhibition of 1783, as the Washington canvas would surely have done. 3.Morning Herald, 30 March 1785. 4.Whitley 1915, 238. 5.Mrs. Sheridan to Mrs. Canning, 7 October 1787 (quoted by Clementina Black, The Linleys of Bath, 2d rev. ed. [1926; London, 1971], 170). 6.Mrs. Sheridan to Richard Brinsley Sheridan, n.d. (quoted by Black 1971,152). 7.Public Advertiser, 13 April 1785. 8.Morning Herald, 30 December 1786. 9.Betsy Sheridan’s Journal, ed. W. Lefanu (London, 1960), 801(16 April 1786). 10.Waterhouse 1958, no. 613. 11.Exh. cat. London 1988,77. References •1785—Morning Her aid, 30 March 1785. •1785—Public Advertiser, 13 April 1785. •1786—Morning Herald, 30 December 1786. •1856—Fulcher, George Williams. Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. 2d rev. ed. London, 1856:226. •c. 1880—Graves, Henry, & Company. Engravings from the Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. London [c. 1880]: no. loo (mezzotint by James Scott, published 1878). •1898—Armstrong, Sir Walter. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898:202, pl. 31; popular ed., London, 1904:279, repro. opposite 164. •1915—Whitley 1915: 201-202, 238-239, 257, 260, 265 (citing the contemporary descriptions quoted above), repro. opposite 265. •1928—Whitley, William T. Artists and Their Friends in England 1700-1800. 2 vols. London, 1928,1:397. •1941—Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: nos. 285, repro., 286, detail repro. •1949—Mellon 1949 : no. 92, repro .113. •1958—Waterhouse 1958: no. 613, pi. 256. •1975—Paulson, Ronald. Emblem and Expression. London, 1975:218,228,pi. 151. •1976—Walker 1976: no. 494, color repro. •1982—Hayes 1982, 1:167, pi. 202. •1990—Shawe-Taylor, Desmond. The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture and Society. London, 1990:143, color fig-97.



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