Daniel Gardner was born in Kendal, Lancashire, in 1750. As a boy Gardner received some instruction from Romney, went up to London in 1767 or 1768, and was entered at the Royal Academy Schools in March 1770. In 1771 he was awarded the Academy's silver medal for a drawing of Academy Figures and exhibited there for the first and only time in his life, preferring, like Romney, to rely for patronage on his connections.
After Gardner left the Royal Academy Schools Reynolds invited him into his studio, where he remained for a short time. A hard-working artist, he started his career in London as a pastelist, painted his first oil in 1779, but worked rarely in that medium and established his reputation with his gouache portraits. His account books have disappeared, and few of his works are datable; equally little is known about his life. He married Ann, the sister of Francis Haward, the engraver, in 1776 or 1777, but she died a few years later in childbirth and he seems to have developed into a lonely eccentric. One of his principal patrons was Sir William Heathcote, of whose family he painted at least twenty-five portraits. He visited Paris in 1802 or 1803 to study the sculpture in the Louvre, and died in London on 8 July 1805.
[Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 108, 110.]