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Creator Thomas Gainsborough RA, 1727–1788, British
Title The Gravenor Family
Alternate Title(s) John and Ann Gravenor, with their daughters
Date ca. 1754
Medium Oil on canvas
Dimensions 35 1/2 x 35 1/2 inches (90.2 x 90.2 cm) Frame: 43 1/2 × 43 1/2 inches (110.5 × 110.5 cm)
Credit Line Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Accession Number B1977.14.56
Collection Paintings and Sculpture
Curatorial Comment This charming group portrait was painted in the provincial port city of Ipswich, where the young Gainsborough labored in relative obscurity early in his career. John Gravenor, a local apothecary and politician, his wife, Ann, and their two daughters are shown as if resting during a pleasant walk in the country. Gainsborough has chosen a square canvas, an unusual format that indicates that the portrait may have been intended to serve as an overmantel. The square shape of the picture support lends “The Gravenor Family” an insularity and formal harmony. This sense of enclosure within the landscape is accentuated by the wheat and the intertwined trees (symbols of the Gravenors’ matrimonial harmony). The seated younger daughter leans in toward her mother, and Gainsborough’s vivid brushstrokes in the storm clouds on the right further envelop the family in their natural setting. Although the sitters look out toward the viewer, rather than conversing among themselves, they are a remarkably coherent family group. The writer Philip Thicknesse described visiting Gainsborough’s studio in Ipswich around the time the artist was working on the portrait of the Gravenors. According to Thicknesse, there were “several portraits truly drawn, perfectly like, but stiffly painted.” Also on view were landscapes, which gave Gainsborough "infinite delight" and which Thicknesse deemed far superior to the artist’s portraits (Thicknesse, 1788, p. 10). In the portrait of John and Ann Gravenor and their daughters the figures are indeed “stiffly painted,” but they charm nonetheless.
     -- Cassandra Albinson, 2007-01
Link to This Record
People Represented or Subject • Gravenor, Ann
• Gravenor, Elizabeth
• Gravenor (née Colman), Ann
• Gravenor, John, apothecary
Subject Terms costume | daughters | family | field | girls | group portrait | husband | landscape | man | metaphor | portrait | square | trees | wife | women

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, pp. 8, 9, 54, no. 15, fig. 8, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

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