The Beautiful Mrs. Graham

Detail from the portrait by Gainsborough Dupont, nephew and only recorded apprentice of the celebrated artist, Thomas Gainsborough.

Thomas Gainsborough's sister (Sarah) married Philip Dupont, a carpenter of Sudbury in Suffolk. Their eldest son, baptised Gainsborough Dupont in 1754, worked in Gainsborough's studio (first as an apprentice) from 1772 until his uncle's death in 1788. He was known chiefly as a copyist and engraver of his uncle's portraits. He was left a legacy of one hundred pounds in settlement of all claims, with the request that he be given "such of my models, implements and utensils and such like things" as might be useful to him. It has been said that after 1788, Dupont continued to work in a Gainsboroughesque style and that his reputation continually suffered from an unfair comparison with his uncle's work.

The Hon. Mrs. Graham was Mary, second daughter of the 9th Lord Cathcart. She was born in 1757 and was married, in 1774, to Thomas (1748-1843) Graham of Balgowan, Perthshire, Scotland. Her husband is pictured here, reproduced from a miniature (by an unknown artist) which has been provided by his descendant relative, the historian and family biographer, Robert Maxtone Graham.

Thomas Gainsborough himself painted Mary Graham four times with the first sittings taking place early in 1775 when she and her husband were in London - which they were for the early period of their marriage.

Mary Graham died off HyŤres in the South of France in 1792. Thomas Graham then became a soldier, with the rank of General, a Member of Parliament and hero of the Peninsular War. He was created Baron Lynedoch and died in 1843.

They had no children and he never re-married. It is reputed that after the death of his beloved wife, Thomas Graham could not bear the pain of living within sight of her portraits. They were housed with friends, boxed up and variously stored in variety of locations for many years.

Thomas Gainsborough's full length portrait of her is at the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was exhibited in London in 1777 at the Royal Academy.

The National Gallery of Scotland will be holding an exhibition based round this portrait from 4th April until 22nd June 2003. Two other Gainsborough paintings of Mrs Graham are booked for the exhibition and there will be dozens of other pictures on show ... of her family, Thomas Graham and his family, copies and pastiches, clothing and artefacts, a CD of associated contemporary traditional music and much more.

A second, (left) the famous "Kitcat" Portrait (36" x 28") is in the U.S. National Collection, Washington D.C. It began as a trial sketch for the full length portrait and was later completed by Gainsborough himself.

The "Dairymaid" Portrait is now in the possession of the Tate Gallery in London. Family tradition holds that a friend of Gainsborough, commenting on the beauty of Mary as she appears in the large picture, added that the rich and delicate colouring and texture of the clothes she wore contributed a great part of the beauty. Gainsborough refuted this, saying he would undertake to make a picture of her in which she would appear equally beautiful - in the dress of a housemaid. He then sketched, in sepia, a full length portrait of Mary, not as a housemaid but as a dairymaid, surrounded by all the implements of a Scottish dairy.

A fourth sketch of Mary Graham by Gainsborough, in oils and oval in shape (10" x 8") is known to exist. It was also a study for the finished portrait. In addition, a miniature portrait of her is known to have been painted by the artist Richard Cosway, executed after her death and using the "Kitcat" portrait as a reference. The whereabouts of this work in unknown.

Graham family ephemera courtesy of Rob Maxtone Graham

The Lynedoch Mausoleum in Methven.
It was originally built (c.1793)
by James Playfair
for
'The Beautiful Mrs. Graham'
 
Click on the image (left) to view
Maxton(e) portraiture and pictures/ephemera
associated with Thomas Graham (Lord Lynedoch).
 

Great Historic Scottish Families - this site - ayrshireroots.com - provides many interesting Scottish family histories and links. It is well worth visiting. For Cathcart family references and expanded detail on Mary/her sisters & family etc., click on the relevant link in the list.