About this artwork

This is one of Gainsborough's finest full-length portraits in the tradition of Van Dyck. The costume and accessories deliberately echo seventeenth century fashion and enhance the elegant beauty of the Honourable Mrs Graham (1757-1792). She was born the Honourable Mary Cathcart, daughter of 9th Baron Cathcart, who was Ambassador to Catherine the Great. She married the Perthshire landowner Thomas Graham in 1774, and they bought Lynedoch House near Methven, Perthshire in 1787. The portrait was highly acclaimed when exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1777. Thomas Graham, devastated by his wife's premature death in 1792, passed the painting to her sister. It was bequeathed to the National Gallery by one of their descendants on condition that it never leaves Scotland.

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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.