fancy picture

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Thomas Gainsborough (1727—1788) painter and printmaker

Joshua Reynolds (1723—1792) portrait and history painter and art theorist


history painting

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A term applied in 18th-century Britain to certain types of sentimental genre pictures. The term is difficult to define with precision, but it refers to paintings that have a rather charmingly contrived air, showing figures—particularly children—playing out various roles. Gainsborough's fancy pictures usually have contemporary pastoral settings, depicting idealized peasants who behave rather more as if they are in the studio than the countryside, although recently they have been interpreted as ‘harrowing’ portrayals of rural poverty. Reynolds, in contrast, favoured classical or allegorical themes, with titles such as Hope Nursing Love and Venus Chiding Cupid. He often used beggar children from the streets as models for these pictures, fitting in the work in gaps between portrait sessions. His pupil Northcote wrote that Reynolds used to ‘fill his painting room’ with such children and ‘When any of the great people came, Sir Joshua used to flounce them into another room until he wanted them again.’

Subjects: Art.

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