Thursday, November 11, 2010

Field Report from Gainsborough and the Modern Woman

Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman is now open at the Cincinnati Art Museum and I am still mourning the fact that I am at a geographical disadvantage to see this wonderful exhibit.  Luckily I can live vicariously through people who did go see it such as Melanie whose account I would like to share with you: 

I put down a list of paintings that were part of the show and the museums where they usually reside [below]. Some of your more well traveled readers will have seen many of these before. I don't consider myself that well traveled, but have seen almost all of them before. Seeing them together, however, is a different matter! We also had the luck to walk in during a talk the curator was giving to a small group of ladies (donors or friends of the museum I am guessing). I'm not sure I agreed with everything he said about the ladies (he was too ready to write all the ladies involved as being part of the demi-rep class), but it was fun. We especially enjoyed his discussion of Gainsborough's technique and his comparisons of these portraits with some of his other works.

The exhibit space itself was very stark, which really made the portraits stand out. My friend and I thought that the portraits of Viscountess Ligonier and Grace Dalrymple were the most visually striking. I have always had a soft spot for Elizabeth Linley Sheridan, so I enjoyed seeing those portraits again. Part of the exhibit was full length portraits and a smaller portion was half portraits and they were in separate spaces.

There was not a crowd when we went and no need for special tickets or anything, which was nice.  [Melanie added that the exhibition and museum are free but they have suggested donations]  The gift shop did not have a lot of merchandise associated with the show, but I did buy the book associated with it and my friend walked out with a large poster of Ann Ford, so we are not complaining. If I am remembering correctly, they had good blurbs about the portraits by the paintings themselves.

We drove a little under two hours to get there, and I say that trip was more than worth it. I would go a lot further to see these works together.

Melanie even went as far as listing some of the amazing paintings she saw!

Ann Ford (later Mrs. Philip Thicknesse) owned by Cincinnati Museum of Art

Portrait of the Artist's Daughters (Worcester Art Museum)

Penelope, Viscountess Ligonier (Huntington Library)

Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Linley (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield (Getty, LA)

Mrs. Grace Dalrymple Elliot (Met)

Giovanna Baccelli (Tate)

Mrs. Maria Anne Fitzherbert (Fine Arts Museums of San Fransisco)

Mrs. Siddons (National Gallery, London)

Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan (National Gallery, D.C.)

The Honorable Anne (Batson) Fane (Krannert Art Museum Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) 

Thank you again Melanie; and if anyone else wants to gush about their experience please do!


  1. My sentiments exactly. Us poor east-coasters

  2. Please, ladies; try living in Alaska.

    Anyway, well done by Melanie and thank you to her. Also special cudos for using "demi-rep", which is appropriate to the period but rarely heard these days.

  3. I know, I know, I am usually quite spoilt by the exhibitions I manage to see.

  4. I'll join you girls in your *sigh*. this kind of lovely expositions are out of my reach

    But, oh well, I'm so happy for the ones that did make it :D

  5. Me too for the *sigh*, it would be truly wonderful to see.

  6. I was happy to see this exhibit today when I went on a day-trip to Cincinnati. It was, as reported, quite striking. Since I hadn't seen any of these portraits in person before, I wasn't expecting them to be so overwhelmingly large! My favorite had to be the one of Ann Ford, pictured on this page. The others were very memorable too. There weren't too many, so each one made an impression. There were also a few original dresses from the period, with comments about how the ladies in the portraits were dressed. Excellent exhibit! The museum website indicates that it will be traveling to San Diego at the end of this month. At the same time as this exhibit in Cincinnati, there is also an exhibit on 200 years' worth of wedding dresses! Such a dream to get to see! I may go back!