Gainsborough: Childhood home of acclaimed artist opens its doors

4 min


Multi-million pound investment into museum and gallery

The childhood home of one of Britain’s most revered artists is opening its doors to the public following a multi-million pound investment.

Thousands of art lovers from around the world are expected to flock to the Sudbury museum which will house more than 40 oil paintings by Thomas Gainsborough. 

The international centre will further display 400 prints and drawings by the artist who was born in 1727. It will be the largest gallery in Suffolk and will hold the world’s most comprehensive collection of his work. Gainsborough passed away in 1788.    

A landscape studio gives spectacular views of Sudbury and the surrounding landscape which Gainsborough captured in his work.

The construction team lovingly restored the Grade I listed building with the aim of creating a sense of atmosphere for the galleries. 

A study centre will be a key focal point for students of the artist while visitors can enjoy peace and tranquillity in the surroundings of an open, glass-faced café and terrace area overlooking a walled garden. 

Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) Pomeranian Bitch and Puppy, c. 1777 Oil on Canvas © On loan from Tate.

The £10 million project received a cash injection from The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

The money allowed development of a new three-storey building which comprises of locally made brick and flint. It was designed by the acclaimed architectural firm ZMMA.

Full story of Gainsborough’s life and works

For the first time, the museum will be able to tell the full story of Gainsborough’s life and his work – with the aim of setting it inside a family and social context.

It’s expected the centre will host international exhibitions showcasing the widespread influence of Gainsborough’s work on his contemporaries.

A ‘bridge’ consisting of a silk-lined gallery devoted to his masterworks will lead visitors from the contemporary architecture of the new building through the garden to the original townhouse – where he was born.

The centre will feature permanent displays and works by Gainsborough, including portraits, landscapes, works on paper, rare books, letters, manuscripts, a printing press and his paint bladders.

The permanent displays are designed to reflect the influence he had on landscape artists, particularly John Constable (1776–1837). 

With works on long term loan from the Constable family’s collection, Gainsborough’s House will provide the only gallery setting where visitors can see the landscapes of Constable in the vicinity of ‘Constable Country.’  

‘Wide collection of Gainsborough’s art’

‘Nowhere else in the world can such a wide collection of Gainsborough’s art and those he inspired be seen in a single setting,’ says Mark Bills, Executive Director of Gainsborough House.  

‘Our thanks go to the National Lottery players, trusts, foundations, and individuals, who have generously supported this ambitious project to become a cultural beacon for East Anglia.’ 

‘With the museum’s acquisition of an adjoining site we created a modern gallery building that raises visitors over Sudbury’s rooftops, connecting the expanded museum campus with Gainsborough’s landscape, bringing in long views and daylight,’ explains Adam Zombory-Moldovan, Project Director at ZMMA.

‘We enjoyed working with the local context and materials, reimagining them to give the museum a contemporary presence in Sudbury.’ 

‘Inspired by the astonishing Collection and the ambitious temporary exhibitions and activity programmes, the new galleries make space for Gainsborough’s largest canvasses, complementing the intimate environment of the historic House.’    

‘We are incredibly pleased to announce the re-opening of Gainsborough’s House, after a significant investment of £5 million from The National Lottery Heritage Fund,’ says Robyn Llewellyn, Director of England, Midlands and East for The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

‘Thanks to National Lottery players, the fascinating stories of one of Britain’s most important artists will be brought to life, and visitors from far and wide will be able to uncover this important story from Britain’s cultural heritage, preserving his legacy for future generations to discover.’

Gainsborough’s House, the childhood home of one of Britain’s most important artists, will open to the public on Monday, 21 November 2022. 

Imagery kindly supplied via Bolton & Quinn.

Featured Image: Thomas Gainsborough (1727 -1788) Thomas Gainsborough, c. 1759 Oil on Canvas © On loan from the National Portrait Gallery.

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