Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan

Painting titled ‘Mrs. Richard Brinley Sheridan’ was painted by Thomas Gainsborough, and was officially produced between 1785 and 1787.

Mrs. Richard Brinsley Sheridan also referred to as Elizabeth Ann Linley before marriage was a childhood friend of Gainsborough. He painted the portrait as a personal favor to her.

The portrait is beautifully integrated in a countryside landscape. She is sitting on a rock and surrounded by trees, dressed like a lady belonging to high society. Her wavy hair and the fabric of her fine garments are floating in the wind, like the leaves on the trees. In the background, the sunset is slightly concealed by a tree in distant solitary.

The setting of the sun and posture of the woman is symbolic of her and scene’s sadness. The distant and aloof tree, opposite to the woman can be interpreted as though she is looking for something which is distant and unreachable to her.

There is a symmetry between the character and the landscape. The wind, a dominant feature is noticeable in both the hair and the silk scarf around the woman through the leaves of the trees and flowers. It reveals the thought of movement and instability in the natural landscape as well as in the main character.

There is also a certain symmetry between the color of the garments and those of the sky – shades of pink and gold; and the woman portrayed seems to counter symmetrically with the lonely tree that hides the setting sun.

The dominant colors are autumnal and are distributed evenly, suggesting the romantic idea of desolation that, according to reports of that time, matched Mrs. Sheridan’s temperament. The faltering light of a setting sun on the left strengthens this point of view.

Gainsborough uses the instability of the brushstrokes to create the instability of the scene and therefore pushing the idea of desolation popular at that time as well as shown by the character. This is a painting with psychological intensity.

The strength of the strokes used to paint the facial features of the woman reveal a very serious, well sculpted, and dignified face, with a kind gaze. The intensity of strokes seems to shift the focus on these features, rather than the surrounding. The brushstrokes which range from the firmer to more diffuse, capture Mrs. Sheridan’s delicacy and charm, showing us that this is a woman of elegance and status.

While painting the transparency of the strokes is very important to the painter. It conveys rhythm to both color and shape.

The quick brushstrokes and only suggesting details are the techniques used in the painting. The technique used by the painter is one used by many artists in romantic portraits of the time.

Dimensions of the painting is 220*154 cm and is currently displayed at National Gallery of Washington, USA.