Early Gainsborough: ‘From the obscurity of a Country Town’


Early Gainsborough: ‘From the obscurity of a Country Town’ brings to light years of research into the early life of Thomas Gainsborough, RA (1727–1788) in this beautifully illustrated book.

Written by Mark Bills, Director of Gainsborough’s House, and winner of the Best General Publication Award 2020 in the Cultural Enterprises Awards.

“Fantastic first-time self-publication, beautifully designed”

Longlisted for the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History 2019

Early Gainsborough is the story of how a burgeoning and enthusiastic boy became one of the greatest artists of any age.

285 x 230mm


120 pages, with 115 pages of colour illustrations

Published by Gainsborough’s House Society


All purchases support Gainsborough’s House, Sudbury, Suffolk

In stock

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‘Murder most foul: Gainsborough family revenge killings trigger reassessment of artist’s early years’
The Art Newspaper

With over 100 illustrations, the book looks again at the surviving accounts and brings forward new ones, including the sensational murder story revealed for the first time, to give a context for the early life of Gainsborough. The second section looks at what we can glean from the material evidence of the fabric of the paintings he made earlier in his life and focuses upon Gainsborough’s early practice as an artist. Two appendices reproduce in full the obituaries that appeared shortly after Gainsborough’s death in August 1788 and the death threats received by Gainsborough’s family in 1738.

‘Mr. Boydell bought the large Landskip [Cornard Wood] …,’ Gainsborough wrote, which was ‘in some respects a little in the schoolboy stile… this picture was actually painted at Sudbury, in the year 1748: it was begun before I left school; – and was the means of my Father’s sending me to London.’  Thomas Gainsborough


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Gainsborough's House

Gainsborough's House is in the heart of Suffolk, in Sudbury, and the birthplace and childhood home of Thomas Gainsborough – one of the great figures of British and World Art history, renowned not only in his advancement of portraiture to a higher level but also in being one of the founders of the British School of landscape painting.
A bricked Georgian Grade-I listed house with an intimate walled garden featuring a 400 year old Mulberry Tree, in 2019, the Gainsborough’s House Society received an investment of £10m to upgrade and ‘revive the artist’s birthplace’. On 21 November 2022, the museum re-opened to the public after a transformational refurbishment. The museum is the international centre for Thomas Gainsborough and is now the largest gallery in Suffolk.

Visitors can view the family house, the new gallery spaces, examples of Gainsborough’s work, alongside specialist exhibitions and the famed garden and Mulberry Tree dating to the early 1600s. The space also has a cafe and visitor’s shop.

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Refund policy

If you are not satisfied with your purchase, or it is damaged in transit, please notify us within fourteen (14) working days of receiving your goods. We would prefer you to telephone us with details of your complaint on 01787 372958, but you may also email us at liz@gainsborough.org Please return your order to us at the address below, in its original condition, with any seals and shrink wrap intact within 30 days of receiving the item(s). Please enclose the original delivery note to help us identify your order. Goods must be returned at your own cost unless faulty and we would recommend that you return the goods by recorded delivery. We can only accept the return, and refund opened items if they are faulty. Please return your items to: Gainsborough's House 46 Gainsborough Street Sudbury Suffolk CO10 2EU