Gainsborough & the Theatre

The Holburne Museum

5 October 2018 – 20 January 2019

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The world of 18th-century theatre is illuminated through Gainsborough’s art and friendships.

Mrs Siddons, Thomas Gainsborough, 1785

Bringing together some of Gainsborough’s finest portraits of leading actors, managers, musicians, playwrights, designers, dancers and critics of the 1760s-80s, this exhibition will explore themes of celebrity, naturalism, performance and friendship.

Gainsborough’s move to Bath in 1759 coincided with the rising wealth and social status of leading actors, such as James Quin and David Garrick, both of whom he painted. His friendship with the pair opened more doors for him, both in Bath and then later in London. The two actors also enabled Gainsborough to explore naturalism in portraiture, just as they and their contemporaries were turning to less artificial forms of performance in theatre, music and dance.

There are 37 objects on display, with 15 oil portraits by Gainsborough (including his famous depiction of the renowned actress Sarah Siddons), works on paper (satires, views of theatres and playbills) and ephemera from public and private collections across the UK.

Venue information

Opening times

Mon – Sat, 10am – 5pm Sun and Bank Holidays, 11am – 5pm Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

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