Art Term

Fancy picture

Fancy picture refers to a type of eighteenth century painting that depict scenes of everyday life but with elements of imagination, invention or storytelling

The term ‘fancies’ was first used in 1737 by art chronicler George Vertue to describe paintings by Philip Mercier. Typical titles were Venetian Girl at a Window or series The Five Senses. The paintings were popularised through engraved copies.

The name fancy pictures was given by Sir Joshua Reynolds to the supreme examples of the genre produced by Thomas Gainsborough in the decade before his death in 1788, particularly those that featured peasant or beggar children in particular.

Selected artworks in the collection