May 2019 Meeting

A Talk by Hugh Belsey on Gainsborough, on  8th May 2019

A summary

Hugh Belsey was curator of the Gainsborough House  in the early 1980s for 23 years.  He described how he took over a house with hardly any paintings and how he managed to acquire Gainsborough works.  This was to make Gainsborough House a place of national importance.  Some pictures were loaned, others gifted, some were bought with help from the V&A and Artfund and some given in lieu of death duties.

He explained the difficulties of  trying to buy Gainsborough paintings when competing against other buyers at auction.  For example in 1988, the “Wooden Landscape with Cattle by a Pool” 1782 by Thomas Gainsborough, sold at Sotherby’s for £354,000, was bought by the County Council and gifted to the Gainsborough House to get round administration problems.  Other significant Gainsborough paintings were sadly lost to US buyers.  In 1989, Hugh Belsey was given a Canaletto painting which he sold in 1989 for £880,000 in order to buy more Gainsborough works.

Hugh recently published a two-volume book on Thomas Gainsborough: “The Portraits, Fancy Pictures and Copies after Old Masters”.  Barry presented these books, bought by the Sudbury History Society, for Hugh to sign and they will be donated to Sudbury Library.

Also at the meeting, details of the 2019 outings were given. See under “Outings”.