The Painting Room at Gainsborough's House, Sudbury, Suffolk

Home » Events » The Painting Room at Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk

Last chance to see The Painting Room: Artists at work in the Eighteenth Century 24 October 2015 – 21 February 2016 at Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk, C010 2EU.  The first exhibition to explore the mysterious world of the 18th century painter’s studio featuring, as its (…) 

 centrepiece, an innovative recreation of a Georgian painting room.

The Painting Room Exhibition at Gainsborough’s House is the culmination of prolonged research on the spaces where 18th-century artists painted. Thomas Gainsborough RA referred to portraiture as the ‘cursed face business’ and it was in the painting room that he would invite patrons to sit. Included in the exhibition are historically significant artefacts from prominent painters (such as Sir Joshua Reynolds RA’s rarely exhibited Sitters Chair and Easel, on loan from the Royal Academy) as well as works by artists that illustrate the Painting Room as it was in the 18th Century.

The painting room was the private inner sanctum of the artist containing the tools and instruments of their practice. It was in this space that their ideas were worked out onto canvas with their sitters. Any prospective patrons would instead be led to the show room. Until now, this kept the painting room a secretive and exclusive space. Gainsborough’s House’s recreation aims to convey the atmosphere and delight that the painting room held for visitors before artists could afford purpose-built studios.

The centrepiece of the exhibition at Gainsborough’s House is an innovative recreation of the distinctive world of the Georgian painting room. Further authentic eighteenth-century artistic equipment of the period is included in the exhibition such as Reynolds’ colour palette, a camera obscura, Claude glass (both on loan from the Science Museum), a lay figure and a set of paint bladders, (small containers used to store pigment) discovered in the attic of Gainsborough’s House in the 1980’s.

Paintings, drawings, and equipment that shed light on the painting room also feature in the exhibition. Francis Hayman’s Grosvenor Bedford in the Painter’s Room (1748-50) on loan from the National Portrait Gallery shows Gainsborough’s early mentor, palette in hand, discussing his painting with his patron. In contrast to this oil are the Royal Collection Trust’s intimate drawings by Bartolozzi that depicts Giovanni Battista Cipriani RA.

Throughout his career Gainsborough had a painting room in his various dwellings and the exhibition has particular relevance for Gainsborough’s House, his childhood home. It emerges from a sold-out conference on the topic of the painting room that followed a major study. The exhibition was co-curated by Giles Waterfield and Mark Bills, associated research projects were supported by The Paul Mellon Centre and the Hamilton Kerr Institute. Funding was generously provided by the Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund.

  •    Exhibition is the first recreation of a Georgian painting room, an eighteenth century domestic space in which artists work
  •    Features rarely exhibited artefacts belonging to Reynolds and Gainsborough’s House
  •    A selection of paintings and works on paper further illustrate the practices of the painting room
  •    Particularly relevant to Gainsborough’s House as Thomas Gainsborough had painting rooms throughout his various dwellings
  •    Follows significant research into the practices of the painting room