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Mary Gainsborough, later Mrs. Fischer (1749-1826) [the artist’s daughter]

  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: Downing Street

    This portrait depicts Mary, the daughter of Thomas Gainsborough. She was briefly married to oboist and composer Johan Christian Fischer, but suffered mental illness following the breakdown of her marriage. On the reverse of the canvas is a portrait of Gainsborough Dupont, nephew of the celebrated painter. As a teenager, Dupont was apprenticed to his uncle and he later became Gainsborough’s studio assistant.

    Once thought to have been painted by Gainsborough himself, the images on each side of the canvas are in fact early copies after Gainsborough. The portrait of Mary relates to a painting of 1777, now in the Tate Collection and formerly in the collection of financier, philanthropist and art connoisseur Sir Otto Beit (1865-1930), which shows the sitter in a different dress. The Dupont portrait on the reverse of the painting has been partially removed by sanding, but can still be identified as a copy of a work now in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, USA, and once in the collection of Dupont’s sister. It remains a mystery as to how and why the unknown artist of this work painted two images on the same canvas, both inspired by Gainsborough paintings from different private collections; discarding the Dupont portrait in favour of the portrait of Mary.

  • About the artist
    One of the founders of the 18th-century British landscape school, Thomas Gainsborough was also the creator of the so-called ‘fancy picture’, depicting rustic figures - usually children - posed in rural settings. Born in Suffolk, he studied in London from about 1739 to 1748 under the French painter and engraver Hubert Gravelot and the British painter Francis Hayman at the St Martin’s Lane Academy. Gainsborough returned to Suffolk in 1748, where he worked as a landscape and portrait painter until 1759, before moving to Bath. There he quickly developed into a much sought-after society painter. In 1774, he moved to London where he exhibited his work in his studio. He died in London in 1788.
  • Explore
    Gainsborough, Mary (later Mrs Fischer)
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Mary Gainsborough, later Mrs. Fischer (1749-1826) [the artist’s daughter]
    Oil on canvas
    height: 70.00 cm, width: 58.00 cm
    Purchased from Sotheby's, 12 July 1995
    Collection of Caroline Agnes, Duchess of Montrose; by whom sold through Christie’s, London, on 14 July 1894 (Lot 10) possibly to ‘Birstall’ for £110-5-0, withdrawn; collection of Montrose; by whom sold through Christie’s, London, on 4 May 1895 (Lot 86), for £152-5-0; from which sale purchased by ‘Laurie’ or ‘Lawrie’; with A. L. Nicholson, London, in 1927; collection of J.J. Haverty of Atlanta, Georgia; by whom presented to the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; by whom de-accessioned in 1982; sold through Christie’s East, New York, on 25 March 1983 (Lot ?); sold through Christie's, London, ’Important English Pictures’ sale, on 23 November 1984 (Lot 78A) for £20,520; sold through Christie’s, London, ‘Important British Pictures’ sale, on 16 November 1990 (Lot 25), bought in; sold through Sotheby's, London, ‘British Paintings 1500-1850’ sale, on 12 July 1995 (Lot 49); from which sale purchased by the Government Art Collection
    GAC number