About this artwork

Gainsborough's full-length portrait of 4th Duke of Argyll shows him in his magnificent peer's robes, a perfect subject for the artist's dazzling brushwork. The Duke rests one hand on his coronet and in the other holds the baton of Hereditary Master of the King's Household. He wears the splendid chain of the Order of the Thistle. He inherited the dukedom when he was sixty-seven, having had a distinguished career as a soldier. In 1745 he defended the west of Scotland against Prince Charles Edward Stewart's ('Bonnie Prince Charlie's') forces, and in 1746 succeeded the Duke of Cumberland as commander in Scotland.

Thomas Gainsborough

Thomas Gainsborough

Gainsborough excelled as a portrait and landscape painter. He was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, and trained in London. He became a highly successful artist, first in Ipswich, then in Bath. He concentrated on portraiture to make a living and continued to build on the grand manner of Van Dyck, but also introduced a refreshing informality through his imaginative landscape backgrounds and his fluid, lively brushwork. Gainsborough was a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768 and returned to London in 1774. He was artistically and temperamentally quite different from his rival Reynolds, but the two artists developed a sincere mutual respect.