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Opening Reception for Gainsborough’s Family Album Exhibition
February 23 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pmFree
The British artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) created more images of his family than any artist before him – pictures of his wife, father, sisters, pets and most particularly his two young daughters – leaving a remarkable visual legacy that is both poignant and ahead of its time. Gainsborough’s Family Album gathers together more than 40 of Gainsborough’s depictions of his family for the first time in history, including 10 of the surviving portraits of Gainsborough’s daughters. The exhibition explores how these portraits not only expressed the artist’s warmth and affection for his family but also helped advance his career, from humble provincial beginnings to the height of metropolitan fame. In doing so, the exhibition demonstrates how Gainsborough reflected and helped shape new ideas of the family that endure today.
Gainsborough’s Family Album is organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in association with the Princeton University Art Museum. The opening event lecture by James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, director, Princeton University Art Museum, will take place Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, 5 p.m., followed by a reception. The exhibition runs from Feb. 23 to June 9.
The Princeton University Art Museum is the only North American venue for the exhibition. The exhibition is anchored by paintings of Gainsborough’s two daughters, Mary and Margaret, as they grew from young children into adulthood, including The Artist’s Daughters Playing with a Cat (ca. 1760-61), Mary and Margaret Gainsborough, the Artist’s Daughters, at their Drawing (ca. 1763-64) and a formal, full-length double portrait of the two from about 1774, which has never been exhibited in the United States. Another highlight is the artist’s virtuosic portrait of his nephew and apprentice, Gainsborough Dupont. These images will be seen alongside self-portraits, a portrait of the artist’s father, canvasses of his siblings, in-laws and other relations and two images in which the family dogs seem to stand in for the artist and his wife. Taken together, these works tell a compelling story of family intimacy and fatherly concern, community, the passage of time, artistic evolution and even mortality unique in the history of art.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the National Portrait Gallery, London. It includes essays by exhibition curator David Solkin, emeritus professor of the Courtauld Institute of Art; Ann Bermingham, professor emerita of art history, University of California, Santa Barbara; and Susan Sloman, independent art historian and author.
A companion exhibition Confronting Childhood, a thematically related exhibition, considers the complex realities of childhood and family life in the modern world. Spanning more than 150 years, the exhibition affords glimpses of children and their families through the vantage point of painting and primarily photography by artists such as Diane Arbus, Ruth Bernhard, Lewis Carroll, Lewis Hine, Dorothea Lange, Sally Mann and Clarence White.