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Thomas Gainsborough - The Painter's Daughters

by Alexandra Tuschka

The older daughter Mary puts her arm around her younger sister Margaret. The latter holds a kitten in her arms, which the painter indicates by only a few outlines. Both daughters of the famous painter were to have a difficult life ahead of them. Through the influence of their father, they had access to high society, but were never really accepted by it. Later, they were even to be considered "unmarriageable." Nevertheless, Mary eventually married a less successful oboe player, but the marriage did not last long. Mary, on the other hand, was to suffer mental illness. In old age, the sisters eventually lived together again.

Here, however, both girls are young and pretty. Their porcelain complexion and noble clothes emphasize the grace of the children and the loving eyes through which he looks at them. They have been set in a pastel setting by their father and recall the courtly elegance of other noble portraits.

The resemblance of the sisters is unmistakable, yet Gainsborough attached importance to the reproduction of the individual features of the girls. For example, the round eyes of the older one differ from the almond-shaped ones of the younger one. The latter also has rounder lips. The eyebrows are curved differently and the hairstyles also differ. Mary, the older, wears hair ornaments, her hair is slightly erect, whereas Margaret's hair is close lying.

Gainsborough liked to paint his pretty daughters. They are recurring models in his paintings. This one, however, stands out for its intense atmosphere and the children's penetrating gazes.

Thomas Gainsborough - The Painter's Daughters

Oil on canvas, 1759, 63 x 76 cm, National Gallery in London


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