(b. 1727, Sudbury, d. 1788, London)

Conversation in a Park

c. 1740
Oil on canvas, 73 x 68 cm
Musée du Louvre, Paris

This charming picture belongs to Gainsborough's early period, when he was working in London and Suffolk. The theme of the conversation in a park evokes Watteau and his school; it denotes a French influence, which played a considerable part in the formation of the artist - he was in fact a pupil of the French engraver Gravelot at the St Martins Lane Academy. This picture has been thought to represent Thomas Sandby and his wife. At the Watson sale in 1832, it was described as depicting the artist and his wife. The painter's marriage took place in 1746; a very similar work, Mr and Mrs Andrews, is dated 1748.

The open-air portrait is a familiar theme in the English school, whereas in eighteenth-century France the portrait is usually in an interior. The evocation of nature by the English portrait painters is on the whole conventional; it is quite another matter with Gainsborough, however, who has treated the landscape for its own sake.