3:1 Music and the Senses: Gainsborough’s Portrait of Karl Friedrich Abel

Course video 8 of 28

We consider five pictures by Thomas Gainsborough in week three of this course that are held in the collection of the Huntington Gallery in California, through an explication of how the artist represented his subjects in the context of the culture of sensibility. Beginning with Gainsborough’s painting of Karl Friedrich Abel, we consider how the artist produced his portrait of masculinity through references to music, science and the senses. We then move to Gainsborough’s pendant portraits of Lord and Lady Ligonier, and The Blue Boy, focussing upon boundaries of gender and sexuality, including debates around effeminacy and passion between the sexes. We conclude with the Huntington’s Cottage Door, considering how this staged scene calls the viewer to look with charity upon impoverished rural women and their children.

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