Thomas Gainsborough

Edward Richard Gardiner


Not on display

Thomas Gainsborough 1727–1788
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 622 × 502 mm
frame: 790 × 660 × 82 mm
Presented by Miss Marjorie Gainsborough Gardiner 1965

Display caption

The boy in this portrait was Gainsborough's nephew, the son of his youngest sister, Susanna Gardiner. A late nineteenth-century source tells us that Gardiner 'was constantly in and out of the studio as a boy of twelve'. He is shown here in 'Van Dyck' costume, a fancy dress version of Cavalier attire which it was then fashionable for portrait sitters to wear. It is the same costume, in fact, that was worn by Jonathan Buttall in Gainsborough's famous full-length portrait known as the 'Blue Boy' (Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California). It is thought that the artist painted this portrait of Richard Gardiner 'as a trial of colour' before attempting the 'Blue Boy'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Thomas Gainsborough 1727–1788

T00727 Edward Richard Grdiner circa 1760–68

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 24½ x 19¾. (69 x 50) in painted oval.
Presented by Miss Marjorie Gainsborough Gardiner 1954, with life interest; entered the collection 1965.
Coll: Family descent, see No. T00726.
Exh: R.A., Old Masters, 1871 (154) and Grosvenor
Gallery, summer 1885 (132), lent to both by the Rev. Edward Richard Gardiner.
Lit: Mrs. Arthur Bell, Thomas Gainsborough, 1897, p. 67, repr. facing p. 68; Sir Walter Armstrong, Gainsborough, 1898, p. 196; 2nd ed. 1904, pp. 164 and 266; Ellis Waterhouse, Gainsborough, 1958, p. 70, No. 300.
Repr: Lord Ronald Sutherland Gower, Gainsborough, 1903, between pp. 116 and 117.

The sitter was the son of Susanna, Gainsborough’s youngest sister (see No. T00726) and was the great-uncle or grandfather of the Rev. Edward Richard Gardiner (son of the Rev. Gainsborough Gardiner), who bequeathed the two portraits, Nos. T00726 and T00727 to his daughter, the donor. A portrait of the sitter’s sister, Susan Gardiner, by Gainsborough is in the Paul Mellon Collection. The boy in No. T00727 appears to be wearing the same costume as Jonathan Buttall, ‘The Blue Boy’, now in the Himtington Collection, San Marino, California. Mrs. Arthur Bell, who may have known the Rev. Edward Richard Gardiner, wrote (loc. cit.) that the portrait of the artist’s nephew ‘who was constantly in and out of the studio as a boy of twelve, is especially interesting, as the child wears a blue dress and his uncle is supposed to have chosen to paint it as a trial of colour before he attempted the famous “Blue Boy”. Mrs. Bell dates the portrait 1767–68, but John Hayes suggests an earlier date, circa 1760–65, and Ellis Waterhouse (loc. cit.) describes it as probably late Ipswich period. Armstrong, 1898 (loc. cit.), states that the portrait was signed, but this is not now visible.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1964–1965, London 1966.


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