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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Gainsborough’s Ladies

by Serena Urry, Chief Conservator


CAMConservation , paintings conservation , Thomas Gainsborough

These three portraits by 18th-century British artist Thomas Gainsborough are in the paintings conservation lab to be examined for the British catalog project. The museum owns a number of portraits and landscapes by Gainsborough, but clearly these ladies have a lot in common, so it makes sense to bring all three in at once.

After close examination of Mrs. Purvis, Miss Fitzpatrick, and Mrs. Hammond, we will write a brief set of technical notes about each portrait. Gleaned from the conservator’s examination, technical notes include information about the materials and techniques used in creating the paintings and their overall state of preservation. These notes will be included in the British paintings catalog. 

Gainsborough’s ladies will be in the conservation lab for just a couple of weeks, and then they will head to our photography department for the high-resolution imaging, also to be included in the British catalog.


Three portraits of white women sit on wooden easels in the conservation lab.

Left to right:

Gainsborough, Thomas (British, 1727–1788), Mrs. Charles Purvis, late 1770s, oil on canvas, Bequest of Harry S. and Eva Belle Leyman, 1954.410

Gainsborough, Thomas (British, 1727–1788), Miss Fitzpatrick, circa 1760s–70s, oil on canvas, Bequest of Harry S. and Eva Belle Leyman, 1943.2

Gainsborough, Thomas (British, 1727–1788), Mrs. William Hammond, circa 1785, oil on canvas, Gift of Mary Hanna, 1946.111