Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 20.djvu/371
At that of 1780 (the first exhibition at Somerset House), among his sixteen contributions were six landscapes, and portraits of General Conway (governor of Jersey), Madame le Brun, the vocalist, Henderson, and Mr. Bate, afterwards Sir Bate Dudley, and others. The last is now in the National Gallery. In the exhibition of 1781 were portraits of the king and queen and Bishop Hurd, together with ‘A Shepherd’ and ‘three landscapes,’ which included two described by Walpole as ‘pieces of land and sea so natural that one steps back for fear of being splashed.’ The most celebrated works of 1782 were the portraits of the Prince of Wales and the dissipated Colonel St. Leger, which were painted to be exchanged as tokens of friendship between the prince and the colonel. The former is now in the possession of the St. Leger family, the latter at Hampton Court. This was also the year of the ‘Girl with Pigs,’ which was purchased by Sir Joshua Reynolds. In 1783 Gainsborough sent no less than twenty-six pictures to the Academy, fifteen of which were heads only, portraits of the royal family, a complete set with the exception of Prince Frederick. The other portraits were the Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Cornwallis, and Lord Sandwich (for Greenwich Hospital), Sir Harbord Harbord, M.P., afterwards Lord Suffield (for St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich), Sir Charles Gould, Mrs. Sheridan, and Mr. Ramus. A landscape, a seapiece, and ‘Two Shepherd Boys with dogs fighting,’ conclude the list for 1783.
Next year, 1784, in consequence of a dispute about the hanging of a picture containing the portraits of the Princess Royal, Princess Augusta, and Princess Elizabeth, he withdrew all his pictures (eighteen) and never exhibited at the Academy again, and shortly afterwards opened an exhibition of his own works at his house in Pall Mall, which had no great success. Among the more celebrated pictures painted after this were the lovely portrait of Mrs. Siddons, now in the National Gallery, the ‘View in the Mall of St. James's Park,’ now belonging to Sir John Neeld, which is described by Hazlitt as ‘all in a motion and flutter like a lady's fan—Watteau is not half so airy,’ and the ‘Woodman and the Storm,’ since destroyed by fire, but well known from the engraving. Gainsborough had difficulties with the face of Mrs. Siddons, as with that of the Duchess of Devonshire. The tip of her nose baffled his draughtsmanship, and he is said to have thrown down his brush, exclaiming ‘D——the nose, there is no end to it.’ In the early part of 1787, according to Allan Cunningham, while dining with Sir George Beaumont and Sheridan, he told Sheridan that he felt he should die soon, and made him promise to come to his funeral. In February of the next year, while attending the trial of Warren Hastings, ‘he suddenly felt something inconceivably cold touch his neck,’ and on his return home his wife and niece found on his neck ‘a mark about the size of a shilling, which was harder to the touch than the surrounding skin, and which, he said, still felt cold.’ This proved to be a cancer, of which he died ‘about two o'clock in the morning of the 2nd of August 1788, in the sixty-second year of his age.’
Gainsborough's life in London seems to have differed little from his life elsewhere, except that he had more money to spend. In 1779 he writes to his sister Mrs. Gibbon that he lives at ‘a full thousand a year expense.’ He set up a coach, but only for a little while. He had lodgings at Richmond in the summer, and sometimes at Hampstead. There is a record of a short visit of his family to the Kilderbees of Ipswich in 1777, and after the close of the exhibition of 1783 he took a tour with Mr. Kilderbee to the Lake district, but as a rule he stayed in London, and was satisfied with his home circle and a few friends, among whom were Sir George Beaumont, Burke, and Sheridan. Though the favourite painter of the court, he was no courtier, and though the aristocracy and many eminent men, such as Pennant and Hurd, Blackstone and Clive, came and sat to him, he seems to have made no attempt to cultivate their society. But there is little known about his life in London, except what can be gathered from a few letters, a few anecdotes, and the names of his sitters. His home life seems to have been a happy one. Mrs. Gainsborough has been described as the kindest as well as the loveliest of wives, and he is said to have liked nothing so well of an evening as sitting by his wife making one rapid sketch after another. Though the quickness of his temper or other cause occasionally provoked a quarrel, it was of short duration. They exchanged pretty little notes of reconciliation in the names of their pet dogs, who carried them in their mouths. His two daughters were beautiful, but the marriage of Mary to Johann Christian Fischer [q. v.] the musician was not agreeable to her father, and both she and her sister Margaret were subject to mental aberration, from which Mrs. Gainsborough in her later years is said not to have been free. With his own family he seems to have been always on affectionate terms. He acted almost in loco parentis to Gainsborough Dupont [q. v.], his nephew, and made him an excellent artist. Dupont helped him with his pictures, engraved them, and finished those which he left