This is possibly Gainsborough’s most important portrait
of a non-aristocratic sitter. Truman (1700-1780), director of the Truman brewery, was a successful businessman. He had been knighted in 1761 in recognition of his achievements.
Around the time that this portrait was painted Gainsborough stopped exhibiting at the Royal Academy, out of disgust at the way in which his paintings
were shown. His disaffection with the institution was such that, a couple of years later, he was nearly removed from the Academy’s Council for having ‘declined any office in the Academy and having never attended’.