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“Mr and Mrs Andrews” by Thomas Gainsborough

Mr and Mrs Andrews 1748-49

“Mr and Mrs Andrews” by Thomas Gainsborough

“Mr and Mrs Andrews” by Thomas Gainsborough is a combination of a double portrait of a recently married couple plus a landscape view of the English countryside. Gainsborough’s work mainly consisted of these two different genres, but this striking combination of detailed double portrait plus landscape, in an extended horizontal format is unique for Gainsborough and rare for that period of art. Gainsborough was about twenty-three when he painted Mr and Mrs Andrews in 1750.

This painting is one of Gainsborough’s most famous works, even though it had remained in a private family collection of the sitter’s inheritors until 1960 and was first exhibited in 1927. Critics praised it for its charm and freshness from its very first exhibition, and its iconic status was established when it was selected as one of four paintings chosen to represent British art in an exhibition in Paris in 1953.

Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter, who surpassed his rival Sir Joshua Reynolds to become the dominant British portraitist of the second half of the 18th century. He preferred landscapes to portraits and is credited as one of the originators of the 18th-century British landscape school.

Robert Andrews

Robert Andrews, the male sitter, was a member of the landed gentry. The Andrew’s family had a London house in Grosvenor Square in Mayfair and engaged in trade with the colonies of the British Empire. His father purchased him this estate, and secured a bride, to place Robert securely into the upper classes. After his father’s death, Robert took over the family business.

Mrs Andrews

Frances Mary Carter, sitting beside him in this portrait, was his equal in the class structure and was betrothed to Andrews at 15 years old. When they married he was 22, she 16. Her father owned a drapery business as well as property and had a share of a house in London.

Reflections

  • What does this double portrait of a recently married couple tell us about their future hopes?
  • What can we read into this couple’s relationship?
  • Is this an early example of a selfie?
  • An area on Mrs Andrews’ lap was deliberately left blank and not painted with the blue of her dress. What was intended to be held in her lap and why was it not finished?

Exploring Portraits

Mr and Mrs Andrews

  • Title:            Mr and Mrs Andrews
  • Artist:          Thomas Gainsborough
  • Year:            1748 and 1749
  • Medium:     Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions: Height: 70 cm (27.5 in); Width: 119 cm (46.8 in)
  • Museum:    National Gallery, London

Thomas Gainsborough

  • Name:          Thomas Gainsborough
  • Birth:            1727 – Sudbury, Suffolk, England
  • Died:            1788 (aged 61) – London, England
  • Nationality:  British

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“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
– English Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Thomas Gainsborough [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons