Gainsborough exhibited at the Society of Artists from 1761 to 1769, and became a foundation member of the Royal Academy in 1768. He first exhibited there the following year, but in 1773 quarrelled with the Academy over the hanging of his pictures, and did not exhibit there again until 1777. In 1784 he again quarrelled with them over the same subject, and never again exhibited at the Academy, instead organising a series of annual exhibitions in his studio at Schomberg House.
He received commissions from the Duke and Duchess of Cumberland in 1777, and from the King and Queen in 1781. He toured the West Country with Gainsborough Dupont in about 1782, and visited the Lake District with Samuel Kilderbee in 1783. Gainsborough died in London after a reconciliation with his great rival Sir Joshua Reynolds, who eulogised him at the Royal Academy, commenting that 'whatever he attempted he carried to a high degree of excellence' (R. Wark, ed., Sir Joshua Reynolds: Discourses on Art, New Haven and London 1975, p.254).
He is buried in Kew Churchyard. A posthumous sale of his pictures and drawings was held at Schomberg House in 1789.
The Tate owns a portrait of the artist by Johann Zoffany (c.1772, Tate Gallery N01487), which is on a long-term loan to the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Ellis Waterhouse, Gainsborough, London 1958, 1966
Mary Woodall (ed.), The Letters of Thomas Gainsborough, revised edition, 1963
John Hayes, Thomas Gainsborough, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1980
John Hayes, The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough, 2 volumes, London 1982