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Thomas Gainsborough, Dr Ralph Schomberg

Key facts
Full title Dr Ralph Schomberg
Artist Thomas Gainsborough
Artist dates 1727 - 1788
Date made about 1770
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 233 × 153.5 cm
Acquisition credit Bought, 1862
Inventory number NG684
Location On loan: Masterpieces from the National Gallery, Chimei Museum, Tainan City, Taiwan
Collection Main Collection
Dr Ralph Schomberg
Thomas Gainsborough

In 1759 Gainsborough moved to the fashionable spa town of Bath, where he established a very successful portrait-painting practice and remained for 15 years. He painted this portrait of Dr Ralph Schomberg, aged about 56, in Bath around 1770.

Gainsborough consulted various doctors during his years in Bath, both for his own medical problems and about the recurring mental instability of his elder daughter, Mary. This portrait may have been painted in place of medical fees.

Dr Schomberg stands at a slight angle to us. His pose is upright and subtly deferential, and his expression conveys benevolent concern. The romantically wild yet artificial landscape, with a wooded hillside under a darkening sky, is painted with enormous speed and sureness, using bold unblended brushstrokes so fluid that dark paint has run down the canvas at the bottom left. The red of Schomberg’s frock coat has faded unevenly in the light.

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