(clickme for explanatory imagery from the Kimbell Art Museum website.)
I have decided, Mr. Gainesborough, that portraiture is too shameful an act for a woman such as myself.
I am no vain diplomat’s wife, no lord or lady with more titles than sense. I am afraid, Mr. Gainesborough, that I must insist that you do not paint me at all, no matter what you say about the immortality of my beauty.
This condemnation of your chosen art form by myself is harsh, I know. Yet, it is not every painting or painter that I find shameful and vain. For instance, landscape painting is a noble thing indeed, and I want to personally encourage you, my dear friend, to pursue that artform. I find great comfort in the gardens of summer when winter is dark, and the paintings in my father’s study grant me that window into the seasons of warmth. Brave adventurers wander to foreign shores and capture the images of our great empire.
As your dear friend, I want to encourage you to pursue landscape painting.
The most beautiful place in the world that I know is a small river near my father’s lands. I sit there in the summer evenings and watch the sun fall down behind the trees. I would love to see your brilliant brush touch this scene.
As someone of talent, I have spent time with canvas and brush myself. I would consider it a personal favor if you came to my little stream and let me watch your masterful strokes.
Mr. Gainesborough, I would be greatly offended if a great painter such as yourself did not come to the most perfect spot in all of England, to preserve the summer sunset for posterity. I so desire to carry that beautiful warmth with me into all the winters of life.
I, however, could never consent to a portrait of myself. I will just sit next to you. I will certainly smile. Certainly, watching you work will be a great joy to me.
Your Dearest Friend,