A Master Landscape Painter
Today is the anniversary of the death of the landscape and portrait painter, known for his painting of the Blue Boy, Thomas Gainsborough.
Gainsborough is regarded as one of the master Landscape painters. But, he is also remembered for his portraits, which made his subjects look relaxed, natural, and beautiful. Thomas's portraits were a direct result of customer preference, and Thomas's customers were the elite. In fact, his commissioned paintings of King George III and Queen Charlotte made him a favorite with royals. So much so, that after Thomas died at age 61, he was buried in the royal church.
Today, you can visit Thomas's house in Sudbury. It has been turned into a charming art center,... and there's also the garden - the garden Thomas grew up in. And, it has a spectacular mulberry tree with falling down branches dating to the early 1600s during the reign of James I, who encouraged the planting of mulberry trees so that he could establish a silk industry. Although England never successfully became known for silkworms, the craft of silk weaving became firmly rooted. The Gainsborough families were weavers. In fact, over 95% of the woven silk in England comes from Sudbury.
Now, back when James I and his advisers were trying to get into silk making, they lacked the knowledge about Mulberry trees. There are actually two kinds of Mulberries.
The white mulberry tree feeds silkworms, and the black tree supplies the fruit.
The Gainsborough Mulberry (as well as every other Mulberry cultivated in England) was the black Mulberry. And this tree, the Gainsborough Mulberry, would have been over a hundred years old when Thomas was born.
In addition to the ancient Gainsborough Mulberry, which is regarded as a sentinel tree or a tree that has kept watch for a great many years, the Gainsborough garden includes two beds for Herbs and another that has plants used for dying fabric. There are also beautiful trees such as the medlar, quince, and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis Mollis), which gives some beautiful color and scent to the garden early in the year. The rest of the garden is made up of plants that were available during Thomas's lifetime in the 18th Century.
And, Thomas once said,
"Nature is my teacher and the woods of Suffolk, my academy."