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This study of Thomas Gainsborough was probably made as part of Zoffany's preparations for an elaborate group portrait of members of the new Royal Academy of Arts, which he painted in 1771-2. Gainsborough was one of the Academy's founder members.

In spite of this study, Gainsborough was not in fact included in Zoffany's final painting. He disliked the Academy's self-importance and formality, and his absence from Zoffany's final picture probably reflects his half-hearted relationship with it.

September 2004