Gainsborough’s Home opens in Suffolk

5 min


Childhood home: colossal redevelopment

The childhood home of Thomas Gainsborough, one of Britain’s most accomplished and renowned artists, has recently re-opened following a colossal redevelopment. 

Gainsborough’s House is now expected to become an international centre for his work. It will be the largest gallery in Suffolk following investment from the National Lottery.

Organisers say the opening displays will present the world’s most comprehensive collection of his paintings. 

Born in 1727, the influence of Gainsborough cannot be understated and the centre will  telling the full story of his life and work. It will also showcase the widespread influence he had on his contemporaries and future generations of artists.

Twenty portraits and landscapes have been brought together for a display in the ground floor of the new building. The works come from public and private collections, including Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition includes family portraits and landscapes which explore Gainsborough’s early life in Suffolk. There is also a recreation of an 18th century painting room and print studio which is complete with printing press, easel and anatomical plaster casts. 

‘The physical transformation of Gainsborough’s House will fundamentally change this historic site, enabling it to become an international centre for Thomas Gainsborough and a cultural hub in the heart of East Anglia, all within the unique environment of the artist’s birthplace and home,’ says Mark Bills, Director of Gainsborough’s House.  

‘We are extremely grateful to the National Lottery players, trusts, foundations, and individuals who have generously supported this ambitious transformation which will ensure that Thomas Gainsborough continues to be a relevant force in art history and an inspiration for generations to come.’

Love of music as a listener and performer

Designers have included The Music Room which aims to celebrate Gainsborough’s love of music as a listener, performer and a depicter of musicians. 

There is also The Constable Room which highlights how the artist was greatly influenced and inspired by Gainsborough’s landscape paintings. 

Gainsborough’s House provides the only gallery setting where landscapes by John Constable (1776–1837) can be seen in the vicinity of ‘Constable Country’ along with important objects from his studio, such as his paintbox and geology cabinet.

The £10 million transformational redevelopment, supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and led by the acclaimed architectural firm ZMMA, comprises a new three-storey building.

‘I am delighted that we have been able to support the reimaging of Gainsborough’s childhood home, with a significant investment of £5 million, to tell the full story of one of our most important British artists,’ says Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive of The National Lottery Heritage Fund. 

‘The sensitive architectural additions in local materials add to the original house, which has been delicately and beautifully restored, providing the perfect backdrop for works by Gainsborough, his contemporaries and those he influenced from across generations.’  

‘The setting with views across the Suffolk landscape will also provide a magical place for visitors to enjoy in the very landscape Gainsborough painted and grew up in, providing a special destination in this beautiful part of the country.’

‘The powerful connection between the landscape surrounding Sudbury and its representation in Gainsborough’s work inspired us to create a new gallery building whose clay and flint materials are brought directly from Gainsborough’s Suffolk landscape,’ says Adam Zombory-Moldovan, Project Director at ZMMA.

Long views of the countryside

‘From the expanded Museum campus visitors will enjoy long views of that countryside beyond the town’s rooftops.’  

‘Sudbury’s silk-weaving led us to make brickwork façades that appear woven, and to silk-line a new gallery for Gainsborough’s grandest canvasses.’  

‘Gainsborough’s home has been reimagined and enriched to make complementary historic and modern settings for the Museum’s displays.’

It was designed in locally made brick and flint and houses a new entrance with four innovative galleries. 

On the third floor, the new Landscape Studio provides a flexible space for learning and events. It includes spectacular views across the Suffolk landscape captured by Gainsborough in his painting.

Planners say the scheme has carefully restored the Grade I listed late medieval, Georgian and Regency townhouse, complemented by a rich palette of colours throughout the atmospheric galleries and its study centre.  

They add that the reorganisation of the existing Weavers’ Lane Cottages has opened up access to the historical print workshop which is the largest of its kind in Suffolk for established and emerging printmakers. It’s expected that doing so will offer traditional skills in printmaking to a new generation. 

The print workshop is a critical component of the transformation of Gainsborough’s House, creating an opportunity for printmakers to show and sell their work in seasonal exhibitions in the Sudbury Gallery. 

The open glass-faced Watering Place café and terrace create a tranquil environment overlooking the walled garden with its new serpentine ‘crinkle-crankle’ boundary wall, at the centre of which is a 400-year-old mulberry tree.

For bookings and further information, please visit:

Image of Gainsborough’s House. Copyright: Hufton + Crow

Image showing a view of the new building designed by ZMMA at Gainsborough’s House. Copyright: Hufton + Crow

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