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Thomas Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs William Hallett ('The Morning Walk')

Key facts
Full title Mr and Mrs William Hallett ('The Morning Walk')
Artist Thomas Gainsborough
Artist dates 1727 - 1788
Date made 1785
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 236.2 × 179.1 cm
Acquisition credit Bought with a contribution from The Art Fund (Sir Robert Witt Fund), 1954
Inventory number NG6209
Location Central Hall
Collection Main Collection
Mr and Mrs William Hallett ('The Morning Walk')
Thomas Gainsborough

Gainsborough painted this portrait of William Hallett (1764–1842) and Elizabeth Stephen (1764–1833) shortly before their marriage on 30 July 1785. The couple are shown arm-in-arm on a morning walk with a Pomeranian sheepdog. The style of the portrait draws on the work of earlier painters Watteau and Van Dyck, and has a delicate poetic quality largely achieved through Gainsborough’s light, feathery brushwork, which is typical of his late style.

Bride and groom were both 21 when they married, and may be wearing their wedding clothes. Some have seen the portrait as a universal statement about wedded bliss and Hallett’s will records that he lived with Elizabeth ‘most happily for nearly 48 years’. However, Elizabeth’s life can't have been easy as betting and gambling were to be her husband’s downfall. They had two sons and four daughters, and when they died Elizabeth and William Hallett were buried in the church where they had been married.

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