The British School 4

THE charm of Gainsborough lies in his intense personality. Except those paintings which are directly inspired by him, there are few that resemble his style ; and this individuality, combined with his faculty to seize sweet and elusive expression, make him one of the most lovable of our painters, in spite of seeminglypuerile lapses—for often his drawing could not well be weaker, nor could his composition. But he could draw, and when he is careless about it and about his construction, he gives us at least something to compensate for their loss in all he did. The colour scheme of " Mrs. Siddons " first attracts us. There is an absence of positive shadow in the flesh. Let us see how it is done.
The picture was evidently laid in in a cool monochrome, the flesh very sparingly glazed, and then accents, such as the black of the pupils, the nostril, the red of the mouth, a few streaks in the powdered hair, and the black velvet riband on the neck, just drawn with a small brush in their respective places over the dry or nearly dry ground.
GAINSBOROUGH, PORTRAIT OF MRS. SIDDONS. National Gallery. A fine example of the lightness of handling so characteristic of the master's manner.
National Gallery
A fine example of the lightness of handling so characteristic of the master's manner.

And, curiously enough, the effect is not hard, although a trifle thin.
In Gainsborough's paintings there is rarely any decided impasto. Perhaps because of their thinness his pictures do not crack ; but they are often chalky in their whiteness.
The blue and golden brown, with the black hat on the red setting, is a striking harmony; and all these are but thinly stated. There was an old superstition that no picture was durable that was not loaded. Gainsborough settles that point for us, and we see that his meagre but clean white grounds uphold his light and freshness.
In the " Parish Clerk " the exquisite hand on the book is fine in the quality of its shadow, and is in direct contrast to , Mrs. Siddons." The light and shade of this picture are fused together in wet state, and very subtly.
The "Musidora" is somewhat patchy with its overglazed colour." The Duke of Bedford's " head is brimful of nature. There is also a portrait of a dignified old man, and a tenderly coloured group of ,The Baillie Family."
The best technical lesson to be learnt from this artist's manner is the safeguarding of the fascinating freshness, and looseness of the sketch in the finished work. Why is the sketch often preferable to work completed from it ? For one reason mainly : it is done in one painting, and therefore the light of the ground is not lost.

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