Our pairing brings Southampton-based artist Lizzie Jones’ painting into dialogue with Thomas Gainsborough’s The Painter’s Daughters with a Cat from the National Gallery’s collection, dating from 1760-1. Jones’ captivating portrait Couple, 2005, was selected as it evokes a sense of gentleness and resilience. A golden glow envelops the sitters and we get a strong sense of their presence and their affectionate relationship. Jones scraped wax over layers of paint on the canvas to help convey a tension; whilst clearly evoking warmth, contextual awareness is key to a more complete understanding of the work. Jones found a photo of this unnamed couple in a 2000s Christian Aid issue about experiencing warfare in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we can infer the woman’s left hand was lost during war violence. However, the couple are represented as figures of hope. Despite facing hardship, they have found happiness and we are invited into this profound moment. As part of the collaboration, visitors will be able to see Couple on display in our Main Hall.
Lizzie Jones (b.1972)
Acrylic and wax on canvas, 55/2006
Purchased in 2006 through the Oriss Bequest from the artist.
© the artist.
This is a tender portrait of Thomas Gainsborough’s two young daughters from the National Gallery’s collection. Likely painted in Bath where the family moved in 1759, Margaret appears to be eight or nine years old, and Mary about ten or eleven. Gainsborough paints them in a natural and familiar way, resulting in a very different feel to his commissioned portraits. This painting strongly conveys that it was painted from life. His insight and personal observation come from deeply knowing his daughters and understanding their vulnerability. A loving and gentle moment is captured as Mary protectively wraps her arms around her younger sister – and tries to help contain the cat cradled and writhing in their arms. The cat is barely sketched in and except for their faces, most of the picture is unfinished. A suggestion of trees and the weather are found in feathery patterns of gold, blue, and grey brushstrokes surrounding the girls. An in-depth exploration of both paintings and all nine pairings is available in the free digital catalogue.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788)
‘The Painter’s Daughters with a Cat’, probably about 1760-1
Oil on canvas, NG3812
Purchased in 1923.
© The National Gallery, London.
Southampton-based writer, Frank Campbell, is involved with justice and peace networks, and a longstanding friend of the artist, Lizzie Jones. Frank attended several group sessions held in the Gallery and here are some of his responses to Southampton’s pairing of artworks, and a subsequent and ongoing discussions with the artist involving peace and justice.