Portrait of the Artist with his Wife and Daughter

Image credit: The National Gallery, London

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This is the earliest known self portrait in oil by Gainsborough, and the only known one of him with his family. He sits with his wife, Margaret, and the little rosy-cheeked girl is probably Mary, their short-lived first daughter. It is likely Gainsborough began it before Mary’s burial on 1 March 1748, when he was not yet 21, and his wife Margaret was a year or so younger. Gainsborough portrays himself in a relaxed cross-legged pose, with one button of his waistcoat undone to suggest his elegant lack of concern with his appearance. He holds a piece of paper which may once have represented a drawing. The paint here and on the child has become transparent with age. Living in London at the time, Gainsborough had some evident difficulties with the landscape as well as with the proportions of the rather stiff-limbed figures.

The National Gallery, London



Portrait of the Artist with his Wife and Daughter


about 1748


Oil on canvas


H 92.1 x W 70.5 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Acquired under the acceptance-in-lieu scheme at the wish of Sybil, Marchioness of Cholmondeley, in memory of her brother, Sir Philip Sassoon, 1994

Work type



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