1 de novembro de 2011

Thomas Gainsborough - Mr. and Mrs. Andrews

Mr. and Mrs. Andrews - 1750
National Gallery - London - UK

This is Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) first masterpiece, painted early in his career. It shows his blossoming talent, not just as a portraitist but also as a landscape painter.

The picture was probably commissioned as a marriage portrait. The sheaves of corn on the right were a standart symbol of fertility, often used in images of this kind. The couple were married in 1748 in the nearby town of Sudbury, faintly visible in the background, and are shown here on their private estate. The composition, with the figures pushed to one side, is unusual, although it does give the newly-weds a proprietorial air, as if they were proudly displaying their land to the outside world.
Marxist and art critic, John Berger once commented that:

“Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, were not a couple in nature as Jean Jacques Rousseau imagined nature. They are landowners and their proprietary attitude towards what surrounds them is visible in their stance and expressions”.

Robert Andrews cradles his shotgun under his arm as his dog looks up at him. He stands proudly in the midst of his huge estate, which had just become even more extensive thanks to his marriage. His attitude is aloof yet businesslike. Frances Carter is sitting on a wooden Rococo bench. Her satin dress shows Gainsborough at his best, while it also reveals strong Rococo elements. The extent of Van Dyck’s continued influence on English portraiture can be seen through the capturing of fabrics in paint. The play of light, movement and the choice of the other colours make the light blue of the informal hunting dress spring to life. Her pose might have been lifted straight from a book of etiquette. Both sitters gaze cooly at the spectator. The oak tree in front of which they stand has several connotations beyond the choice of location: stability and continuity, and a sense of successive generations taking over the family business.

Gainsborough’s inexperience is evident from the poses of the figures, which are a little stiff and doll-like. The artist was in his early twenties and that may also account for the unflattering haughty expressions of the couple, which raises the question of their relationship with the artist: Gainsborough had known them both since childhood, though never as social equals. He had attended the same school as Robert Andrews, but while the latter had gone to Oxford University, he had become a lowly apprendice. Similarly, when Gainsborough’s father had run into financial difficulties, Frances’s family had come to his assistance. This social gulf may explain the disdainful way in which the couple are looking at the artist.
Mr and Mrs Andrews contained the most landscape of Gainsborough's works, and was a style to which he would not return. Future paintings would be set against neutral or typical rococo settings. It has been theorised that Gainsborough wished to show off his landscape ability to potential clients, to satisfy his personal preference, or his sitters' wishes.
Source: Wikipedia, Iain Zaczek, net.

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