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Murders in the family of Thomas Gainsborough opened the way for him to success, experts say

Two relatives of Thomas Gainsborough were killed because of the money when he was a child. Recent studies present a completely new perspective on the artist’s early years and make it clear from where his family had the means to send the boy to study in London.Historians have discovered threatening letters dated 1738 and sent shortly before the sudden deaths of Uncle and cousin Thomas Gainsborough. In one of them - to the cousin of the future painter - unknown persons promised to "shoot or hang up" the addressee.
Important research was carried out over four years by Mark Bills, director of the Gainsborough House in Sudbury, Suffolk County. An exhibition dedicated to the early years of Thomas Gainsborough will open in this museum in October. He was born in Sudbury in 1727 into the family of a wool merchant and became one of the leading painters of his time.

"Self-portrait at the age of 12 years" (c. 1739), which is attributed to Thomas Gainsborough. Private collection
From the middle of the 19th century, the artist’s biographers missed the killings in the Gainsborough family. Both his uncle and his son also bore the name Thomas; one lived in Sudbury, and the second worked for some time in London. Bills points out that the support and guidance of the uncle played a key role in the formation of the painter.
The future master at the time of the killings was 11 years old. He was well aware of the tragedy in a close-knit family - and this allows historians to give a new assessment to the early years of the artist.

Bills found a publication in the London Gazette on September 26, 1738 on behalf of John Gainsborough, the painter's father. He offered, through the newspaper, a reward of £ 30 and a release from criminal prosecution to anyone who reported on the authors of threatening messages received by members of his family.
In the first anonymous letter sent from London on March 1, 1738, uncle and cousin Gainsborough were accused of “financially ruining” their friend Richard Brock. Under the threat of death, they were demanded not to collect the debt from this person. The letter ended with the words of "sweet revenge." Both addressees obviously took the blackmail seriously, because several months later they wrote wills.
  • Portrait Portrait is a realistic genre depicting a person or a group of people existing in reality. The portrait - in the French reading - portrait, from the old French portraire - "reproduce something line in line." Another facet of the name of the portrait lies in the outdated word "parsuna" - from the Latin. persona - "person; person". Read More John Gainsborough, the father of the artist, written in 1731 by John Theodor Heinz the Elder. Gainsborough House, Sudbury
  • Portrait Portrait is a realistic genre depicting a person or a group of people existing in reality. The portrait - in the French reading - portrait, from the old French portraire - "reproduce something line in line." Another facet of the name of the portrait lies in the outdated word "parsuna" - from the Latin. persona - "person; person". Read More Thomas Gainsborough, the artist's cousin, written in 1731 by John Theodore Heinz the Elder. Gainsborough House, Sudbury
An even more threatening letter was sent six months later, on September 3, 1738. Unknown warned his son that they had recently seen him "on the road", but decided not to kill "for the sake of a poor woman" - his wife who accompanied him. They put forward a demand: within a week, Gainsborough must give up his demands on Brock. The ultimatum expired on September 10, and the artist's cousin was buried five days later. Since he was only 29 years old, most likely he was shot or poisoned, and did not die from natural causes. And taking into account the time for the transport of the body from London to Sudbury and the organization of the funeral, he was killed a few hours after the expiration date.
Despite the death of his son, Uncle Gainsborough continued to insist on the payment of the debt. And exactly six months later, he died in a London pub, as reported by the Weekly Almanac of March 17, 1739. Although the newspaper did not write about the cause of death, it is highly likely that this was a murder, as it happened in public. A shootout in the note would also be mentioned, so probably the man was quietly poisoned after he drank a couple of beers.Painting by Thomas Gainsborough “Evening landscape The development of the genre from antiquity to the present day: how did religion and the invention of oil painting techniques contribute to the formation of the genre in Europe and why is the Hudson River so important? Read further with an elderly peasant and donkeys "(1757) will be one of the exhibits dedicated to the early years of the artist. As the researchers established, the killers were never caught, and the reward in the considerable 30 pounds sterling for the information did not deceive the family. but influenced the further fate of the young Thomas Gainsborough. His father, declared bankrupt four years ago, has now received an inheritance. My uncle wished his nephew to find his “easy craft” and set aside £ 40 for this. This money allowed the family in 1740 to send a 13-year-old boy to London to study for engraver Hubert Francois Gravelot. Read also: The Gainsborough drawings were rediscovered in the Royal Assembly

Thomas Gainsborough, "Descent from the Cross (after Rubens)" (1760s). Gainsborough House, Sudbury
The killings, of course, had an emotional impact on the young man, who, apparently, was at a funeral. It must have been the fear that John Gainsborough and his children might be the next target of the murderers, was one of the reasons why the father decided to send his son to the big city from small Sudbury, where he could be easily traced. But even getting out of a carriage in London, "young Thomas knew that his uncle was killed in a pub around the corner," writes Mark Bills.

In more detail about his discoveries and the impact of the tragic events on the young artist, the director of the House of Gainsborough tells in the catalog for the exhibition, which will be held from October 20, 2018 to February 17, 2019. Arthiv: read us in Telegram and see on Instagram
Based on The Art Newspaper. Main Illustration: Fragment of Self-Portrait by Thomas Gainsborough (1759)