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Mr. and Mrs. Andrews,

by Thomas Gainsborough

 

1750 approx.

Oil on canvas
69,8 cm x 119,4 cm

National Gallery, London

 

This striking composition by Gainsborough combines the freshness and authenticity that we sometimes miss in the Rococo painting of the 18th Century. Painted when the artist was only 22 years old, the work displays a surprising freedom from

years old, the work displays a surprising freedom from criteria, with the happy consent of its equally young clients, the recently married Mr. and Mrs. Andrews, 22 and 16 years old respectively.

 

They pose with the colours of the sky in their apparel, discreetly demanding prominence, but sharing it with the open country behind them, of which they perhaps feel more like the hosts than the owners. The gentleman is relaxed within his sinuous silhouette; the lady, somewhat stiff in the blue frame of her dress.

 

An unusual detail of this work is that it remained slightly unfinished. According to legend, the gap in the lap of Mrs Andrews should have contained —at her request— one or more pheasants recently hunted by her husband.

 

It is not difficult to trace the DNA of this work through of a dynasty of fairly unconventional British portrait artists all the way to the contemporaries David Hockney and Lucian Freud.