Thomas Gainsborough

George Lavington, Bishop of Exeter

George Lavington, Bishop of Exeter by Thomas Gainsborough

Artwork Detail

Vivacious brushstrokes, as Gainsborough so aptly demonstrates on George Lavington's surplice, convey the transparency of the fabric with great economy. This looser technique marks the artist's transition from the more formal rendering of paint in the Gallery's other, and earlier, Gainsborough painting, Portrait of John Sparrowe, Esq., where the surface layers of paint build up a dense sheen. Gainsborough settled in Bath from 1760 to 1774, during which time he gradually changed his painting technique, focusing more on the play of reflecting lights on satins and silks. He became very popular as a portrait painter, and according to Waterhouse often gained commissions by word-of-mouth among interrelated families in Bristol and Somerset. He painted a number of older men of 'strong character', a description that fits George Lavington (1684-1762), an opponent of Methodism who was Chaplain to George I. The severity of the Bishop's face, however, is lessened considerably by the almost foamy swathes of fabric in his sleeves. Gainsborough was influenced by van Dyck, whose work he was familiar with from visits to London, and his reputation was enhanced by the full-length portraits he sent to the capital to be exhibited with the Society of Artists. This exposure attracted London sitters in equal measure, and his elegant, full-length compositions were considered masterpieces in his time. (from The Guide, 2001)

George Lavington, Bishop of Exeter
Thomas Gainsborough
Production date
circa 1760
oil on canvas
1270 x 1042 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1960
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
On display

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