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Three Double Portaits
Portraits always tread a tightrope between the expectations of the sitter and the capacities of the artist, between likeness and style, appearance and insight. Double portraits see this tension taken a significant step further, inviting the viewer to explore the ways a relationship can be revealed (or occluded) via its representation.
All three paintings are in the National Gallery, London.
Mr and Mrs Andrews – Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1750
Often represented as an icon of quintessential Englishness, Gainsborough’s early canvas combines an idyllic pastoral landscape with the double portrait of a young married couple from his native Suffolk. Casually fashionable, apparently enjoying a leisured moment on their estate, they can be viewed as the epitome of a sort of nonchalant, “Country Life” good breeding, but the painting is also about ownership, wealth and family, placing its sitters in a political context that even today still inspires debate and dissent.
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