Overview

Elizabeth Linley's beauty and exceptional soprano voice brought her professional success in concerts and festivals in Bath and London. After marrying Sheridan in 1773 she left her career to support and participate in her husband's activities as politician, playwright, and orator. Sheridan's work was immensely popular, and his witty plays, A School for Scandal and The Rivals, are a beloved part of today's theatrical repertoire.

Mrs. Sheridan is shown here at the age of thirty-one, a mature and elegant woman. Merged into the landscape, her gracious form bends to the curve of the trees behind her. Light plays as quickly and freely across her dress as it does across the clouds and the sky. The distinct textures of rocks, foliage, silk, and hair are unified by the strong, animated rhythms of Gainsborough's brush.

The freely painted, impressionistic style of Mrs. Sheridan's costume and the windblown landscape reflect the strong romantic component in Gainsborough's artistic temperament. However, his primary focus remains on his sitter's face and on her personality. Her chin and mouth are firm, definite, and sculptural, and her heavily drawn eyebrows give her a steady, composed, and dignified expression. There is a hint of romantic melancholy in her eyes, with their slightly indirect gaze.

Inscription

Marks and Labels

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Provenance

The Hon. Mrs. Edward Bouverie [1750-1825, later Lady Robert Spencer], a friend of the sitter, Delapré Abbey, Northampton; by descent to her grandson, General Everard Bouverie [1789-1871]; (his estate sale, Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 2 March 1872, no. 110);[1] purchased by Alfred de Rothschild [1842-1918] for his father, Baron Lionel Nathan de Rothschild [1808-1879], Gunnersbury, Middlesex; by inheritance to his son, Nathaniel, 1st lord Rothschild [1840-1915]; by inheritance to his widow, Emma, Lady Rothschild; by inheritance to her nephew, Nathaniel Mayer Victor, called Victor, 3rd baron and later 3rd lord Rothschild [1910-1990];[2] sold 1936 to (Duveen Brothers, Inc., London, New York, and Paris); purchased 26 April 1937 by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1937 to NGA.

Exhibition History

1786
Gainsborough's studio, Schomberg House, London, 1786.
1873
Works of the Old Masters, associated with Works of Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1873, no. 35.
1886
Works by the Old Masters, and by Deceased Masters of the British School. Winter Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1886, no. 103.
1936
Gainsborough, Sir Philip Sassoon's, 45 Park Lane, London, 1936, no. 8 (illustrated souvenir, repro. 75).
1980
Thomas Gainsborough, Tate Gallery, London, 1980-1981, no. 129, repro., color repro. 125.
1981
Gainsborough, Grand Palais, Paris, 1981, no. 57, repro., color repro. 77.
1988
A Nest of Nightingales: Thomas Gainsborough, The Linley Sisters, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 1988, no. 3, repro., color repro. 44.
2002
Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788, Tate Britain, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2002-2003, no. 166, repro.
2006
Citizens and Kings: Portraits in the Age of Revolution, 1760-1830, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2007, no. 135, repro. (shown only in London).
2010
Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, Cincinnati Art Museum; San Diego Museum of Art, 2010-2011, pl. 10 (shown only in Cincinnati).
2011
Presiding Genius: A Masterpiece a Month for a Very Special Year, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, 2011, no catalogue.

Bibliography

1785
Morning Herald, 30 March 1785.
1785
Public Advertiser, 13 April 1785.
1786
Morning Herald, 30 December 1786.
1856
Fulcher, George Williams. Life of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A.. 2d rev. ed. London, 1856: 226.
1880
Graves, Henry, & Company. Engravings from the Works of Thomas Gainsborough, R.A. London [c. 1880]: no. 100 (mezzotint by James Scott, published 1878).
1898
Armstrong, Sir Walter. Gainsborough & His Place in English Art. London, 1898: 202, pl. 31; popular ed., London, 1904: 279, repro. opp. 164.
1915
Whitley, William T. Thomas Gainsborough. London, 1915: 201-202, 238-239, 257, 260, 265, repro. opp. 265.
1928
Whitley, William T. Artists and Their Friends in England 1700-1800. 2 vols. London, 1928: 2: 181.
1941
Duveen Brothers. Duveen Pictures in Public Collections of America. New York, 1941: nos. 285-286, repros.
1941
Preliminary Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1941: 70-71, no. 92.
1942
Book of Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1942: 241, repro. 15.
1944
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds., Masterpieces of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1944: 130, color repro.
1946
Favorite Paintings from the National Gallery of Art Washington, D.C.. New York, 1946: 55-57, color repro.
1949
Paintings and Sculpture from the Mellon Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1949 (reprinted 1953 and 1958): 113, repro.
1958
Waterhouse, Sir Ellis. Gainsborough. London, 1958: no. 613, pl. 256.
1960
Cooke, Hereward Lester. British Painting in the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1960 (Booklet Number Eight in Ten Schools of Painting in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.): 16, color repro.
1963
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. New York, 1963 (reprinted 1964 in French, German, and Spanish): 218, repro.
1965
Summary Catalogue of European Paintings and Sculpture. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1965: 54.
1966
Cairns, Huntington, and John Walker, eds. A Pageant of Painting from the National Gallery of Art. 2 vols. New York, 1966: 2:354, color repro.
1966
The Women I Love: These Lovely Immigrants Are Part of Our National Treasure.” This Week Magazine (January 9, 1966): 10, color repro.
1968
European Paintings and Sculpture, Illustrations. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1968: 47, repro.
1975
European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 142, repro.
1975
Paulson, Ronald. Emblem and Expression. London, 1975: 218, 228, pl. 151.
1975
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1975: no. 494, color repro.
1982
Hayes, John. The Landscape Paintings of Thomas Gainsborough. 2 vols. London and New York, 1982: 1:167, pl. 202.
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 354, no. 492, color repro.
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 163, repro.
1992
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 103-106, color repro. 105.
1992
National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington. New York, 1992: 152, repro.
1993
Miles, Ellen G., ed. The Portrait in Eighteenth-Century America. Newark, 1993: fig. 7.
1995
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. New York, 1995: 942, fig. 26-19.
1997
Asfour, Amal and Paul Williamson. Gainsborough's Wit, Indiana, 1997, no. 6, repro.
1999
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. 2 vols. Revised ed. New York, 1999: 934, fig. 26-2.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 274-275, no. 221, color repro.
2012
Secrest, Meryle. "Looking at Art: 18th Century Fox." Art News 111, no. 7 (Summer 2012): 76-77, color repro.
2013
Christiansen, Carol, and Eleonora Luciano. "The evolution of Gainsborough's portrait of Elizabeth Sheridan." The Burlington Magazine 155, no. 1321 (April 2013): 238-242, figs. 24, 25, 30-32.

Technical Summary

The medium-coarse canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground, the color of which is difficult to determine, is moderately thick and masks the weave of the canvas. There is a light pink imprimatura evident beneath the sky and the sitter, which is used as a middle tone. The painting is executed in liquid paint, blended wet into wet, applied in many layers in order to create a rich and sumptuous effect, with thin washes in free-flowing brushstrokes for the details. The painting is in excellent condition. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow slightly.

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