MR AND MRS ANDREWS is an oil on canvas portrait of about 1750 by
The work is an unusual combination of two common types of painting of the period: a double portrait, here of a recently married couple, and a landscape view of the English countryside. Gainsborough's work mainly consisted of these two different genres, but their striking combination side-by-side in this extended horizontal format is unique in Gainsborough's oeuvre, and extremely rare in other painters. Conversation piece was the term for a portrait group that contained other elements and activities, but these normally showed more figures, set engaged in some activity or in an interior, rather than a landscape empty of people.
Gainsborough was later famously given to complaining that well-paid portrait work kept him away from his true love of landscape painting, and his interest probably combined with that of his clients, a couple from two families whose main income was probably not from landowning, to make a more prominent display than was normal in a portrait of the country estate that had formed part of Mrs Andrews' dowry .
* 1 Artist * 2 Sitters and setting * 3 Missing area * 4 Critical reception * 5 History * 6 Notes * 7 References
Gainsborough's self-portrait of 1754
The relatively small size of the painting, just 2 feet 3 inches (69 cm) high, is typical of both Gainsborough's portraits and landscapes at this early period. Later he painted larger portraits approximating life-size for a grander London clientele than his early depictions of local gentry, and the landscape backgrounds he used were mostly of woods and very generalized. Both his landscape backgrounds to portraits and his pure landscapes tend to show woodland, and the open farmland view seen here is unusual, especially as it begins so close-up to the viewer. Like most pure landscape paintings, Gainsborough's normally showed a view all seen from a certain distance, and that this landscape sweeps away from a foreground very close to the viewer is a feature necessitated by and typical of the portrait, though one that greatly adds to the success of the painting. As with almost all artists of the period, it was not Gainsborough's practice to paint outdoors, and Mrs Andrews did not in reality have to walk in her silk clothes across the fields to pose, one of the aspects of the work commented on disapprovingly by some modern writers.
SITTERS AND SETTING
Robert Andrews, the male sitter, was a member of the landed gentry ,
and this is very much apparent in Gainsborough's work. Although it is
probable the family money came from being a landlord, Robert's father
also lent substantial amounts of money, particularly to other gentry,
at significant interest rates. This included the sum of £30,000 to
Frederick, Prince of Wales
His wife sitting beside him is Frances Mary Carter, who was brought
up in the same parish of Bulmer, and was "not quite the girl next
door, but probably the nearest marriageable girl of his own class".
She was betrothed to Andrews at 15 or 16 years old. They were married
in Sudbury, on 10 November 1748: he was 22, she 16. Her father also
owned businesses as well as property, and had a "share of a house in
City of London
The Andrews' estate, Auberies, in Bulmer Tye , North Essex, is just
some four miles from Sudbury, and bordered Frances' father's
Ballingdon estate. It was probably part of her dowry or bought with
it, and had been bought between their marriage and when the painting
was done. The church glimpsed in the middle of the work is All Saints,
Sudbury, where the couple had been married. The small tower in the
left background is that of Holy Trinity Church in
The couple are buried in the churchyard of St. Andrew's Church in Bulmer, whilst a memorial to them hangs in the church itself.
The Andrews wear different dress, but both are more equal in their informality than many observers have thought. Robert is as informal as a man in his position was likely to be seen, even on his own estate, in a loose hunting coat with dangling bags for gunpowder and shot. Frances wears an outfit which in fact is an informal summer suit (as we would now call it) with a separate skirt and jacket, not a dress, of a light blue similar to those that Gainsborough often gave his early female sitters, including her mother, and which may not represent any actual garment of that colour. She wears informal mules and a straw hat. However, their poses are certainly different, with Robert's nonchalant pose not matched by Frances, who is "sitting bolt upright". Apart from considerations of corsetry , and the poise expected of ladies, her figure was probably painted from a dressed artist's mannequin . The rococo bench on which she sits must be made of wood at this date, and it is thought that this was an invention of Gainsborough's, drawing on his period with Gravelot.
Gainsborough had painted (probably in London) Frances's parents in his Mr and Mrs Carter of Bullingdon House, Bulmer, Essex in about 1747–1748 (now Tate Britain ). This painting makes an interesting comparison with that of the Andrews in many respects. Frances Jamineau, who became Mrs Carter, was of French parentage, and whether she and her husband were really as disproportionate in size as Gainsborough paints them is unknown.
The neat parallel rows of corn produced by Jethro Tull 's
revolutionary and controversial seed drill show that this is a
thoroughly modern and efficient farm. Robert was a keen farmer, whose
letter in 1768 to the agriculturalist Arthur Young "On the Smut in
Wheat" was published in Young's Annals of Agriculture. As such details
are not typical of Gainsborough's landscapes, but rather anticipate
the work of
A group portrait of about 1754 shows the parents and two daughters of
The Gravenor Family (illustrated below) with a square version of a
similar composition with two oaks on the left behind the standing
father and seated mother, and the daughters to their right, close up
to the edge of standing corn. A distant view can be seen above the
corn, though Mr Gravenor was a "successful apothecary " in
The oak tree in front of which the Andrews stand has several connotations beyond the choice of location: Englishness, stability and continuity, and a sense of successive generations taking over the family business. The landed gentry had been compared to the oak, holding Britain together. The oak tree still survives, now considerably larger.
A space reserved for ?
An area on Mrs Andrews' lap is "reserved", that is to say not painted with the blue of her dress. A brown brushstroke has suggested "a long-popular idea" that a cock pheasant was to be placed there, despite the painting probably (from the state of the corn) being set before the legal start of the pheasant season on September 1. Perhaps more likely is a work bag for embroidery , "tatting or knotting", as is often seen in portraits, a book, a fan , a lapdog , or even a baby yet to be born—their first child was a daughter born in 1751.
After it came to critical attention in 1927, the painting was
initially a darling of the critics and art historians. Although Lord
Duveen was still achieving huge prices for the later Grand Manner
portraits he was selling to American plutocrats, critical taste was
increasingly appreciative of Gainsborough's smaller and fresher early
portraits. For Sir
John Rothenstein in 1947 "there are few
interpretations of civilized man in his relations with cultivated
nature more lovely or psychologically profound", and other writers
have developed the analysis of themes of fertility, abundance and
interest in nature in the work. It was praised by
Kenneth Clark in
Landscape into Art (1949): "this enchanting work is painted with such
love and mastery ...", which was in turn quoted scornfully by the
Marxist art critic
Berger's brief remarks began a tradition of essentially hostile commentary in books on human geography and other parts of the humanities , that tend to treat normal features of historic portraiture as somewhat sinister, in a view emphasizing negative aspects of the English 18th century. By 2004 it was described as "a painting that has become so widely cited by human geographers that we feel it has become the one cultural artefact no self-respecting commentary on the practice of human geography can afford to ignore". According to another geographer:"Mr and Mrs Andrews, then, is an image on which geographers are agreed: it is a symptom of the capitalist property relations that legitimize and are sanctioned by the visual sweep of a landscape prospect".
In this tradition the expensive medium of oil-on-canvas itself, and the lack of farm-workers in the image are cited as further evidence, and Mrs Andrews' somewhat stiff seated position is said to express her inferior and passive status, as she is placed on display like other assets of her husband. Harsh things are said about the appearance and facial expressions of the two sitters, their dress and poses, and Mr Andrews carrying a gun. To some authors in this tradition, Gainsborough's intention in making the portrait was in part satirical, something most art historians are unlikely to agree with.
In contrast, Andrew Graham-Dixon finds the painting "in its quiet, understated way, one of the masterpieces of erotic painting"; Robert's "clothes are almost falling off him, they are so loose and floppy" while Frances "has a melted, langourous look about her". For Erica Langmuir it is "the most tartly lyrical picture in the history of art. Mr Andrew's satisfaction in his well-kept farmlands is as nothing to the intensity of the painter's feeling for the gold and green of fields and copses, the supple curves of fertile land meeting the stately clouds". She notes the visual "rhymes and assonances" that link elements of the composition: the skirt with the bench back, Mrs Andrews' shoes with its feet and Mr Andrews' with the tree roots, and "the lines of gun, thighs, dog, calf, coat". His hanging coat tail relates to the ribbon hanging from his wife's hat.
Wooded Landscape with a Peasant Resting, 1747, typical of Gainsborough's early pure landscapes.
After effectively being rediscovered in the 1927
The painting remained with the family until sold by Gerald Willoughbury Andrews (b. 1896, a great-great-great-grandson of the sitters) at Sotheby\'s in London on 23 March 1960. It was bought for £130,000 by the dealers Thomas Agnew -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em; list-style-type: decimal;">
* ^ Egerton, 80; it is one of at most five British works in the Gallery's own selection of 30 of its "best-loved" works * ^ Waterhouse, 249, Clark, 48, Egerton, 82–84 * ^ A B C Hagen, Rose-Marie; Hagen, Rainer (2003). What great paintings say. 1. Taschen. pp. 296–300. ISBN 978-3-8228-2100-8 . Retrieved 8 January 2010. * ^ Waterhouse, 248-50; Clark, 48 * ^ Such as Jones; in any case the setting is much nearer the house than the painting suggests, see below; Langmuir, 284 * ^ Hugh Belsey, Andrews, Robert (1725–1806), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2013 accessed 13 Sept 2013 * ^ A B C Egerton, 80 * ^ Egerton, 83 * ^ A B C Egerton, 82 * ^ A B Langmuir, 284 * ^ Egerton, 83; Hagen * ^ Egerton, 86 * ^ Egerton, 83; Langmuir, 284; see Jones for criticism of Mrs Andrew's outfit. * ^ see Rothenstein, 43–44 for a comparison of the two artists * ^ Egerton, 84 * ^ Alexander, 54; The Gravenor Family pa