National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Miss Catherine Tatton Thomas Gainsborough (artist)
British, 1727 - 1788
Miss Catherine Tatton, 1786
oil on canvas
overall: 76 x 64 cm (29 15/16 x 25 3/16 in.) framed: 104.5 x 91.8 x 14 cm (41 1/8 x 36 1/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Andrew W. Mellon Collection
On View
From the Tour: Britain's Royal Academy of Art in the Late 1700s and Early 1800s
Object 4 of 8

In 1786, at the age of eighteen, Catherine Tatton married James Drake-Brockman, who became High Sheriff of County Kent. This wedding portrait was commissioned by the Rev. John Lynch, Archdeacon of Canterbury, her uncle and the executor of her father's estate. Miss Tatton is fashionably attired with a wide-brimmed sun hat silhouetting the loose ringlets of her hair.

Gainsborough held his posing sessions during business hours, but Sir Joshua Reynolds also noted "his custom of painting by night" with candles under which "the flesh seems to take a higher and richer tone of colour." In addition to imitating the flattering glow of candlelight, Gainsborough is known to have used exceptionally long brushes that he wielded like fencers' foils, vivaciously touching in "odd scratches and marks." Such extreme sketchiness is apparent even in this bust-length portrait. Reynolds reluctantly admitted that "this chaos, this uncouth and shapeless appearance, by a kind of magick, at a certain distance assumes form, and all the parts seem to drop into their proper place."

Rather than working from extensive preliminary drawings—the academic practice advised by Reynolds—Gainsborough dashed off his portraits directly on the canvas. Here, the puff of the blue sash and the hand elegantly toying with it were afterthoughts.

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