The Frick Collection
The West Gallery of The Frick Collection
Special Exhibition

Masterpieces of European Painting from Dulwich Picture Gallery
March 9 through May 30, 2010

Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788)
Elizabeth and Mary Linley — The Linley Sisters
1771–72, probably partly repainted 1785
Oil on canvas
Linley Bequest, 1835
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Gainsborough’s affectionate portrayal of these talented, intelligent sitters was exhibited as a “portrait of Two Young Ladies” at the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition in the spring of 1772. At left we see eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Linley, standing with her guitar; seated next to her, a book of music on her lap, is her fourteen-year-old sister, Mary. The Linley girls were part of a musical family from Bath. Their father, Thomas, who commissioned the picture, was a well-known singing master, harpsichordist, and composer.

Elizabeth had made her debut at Covent Garden Theatre in 1767, and her sister appeared at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, two years later. The girls went on to perform together in oratorios and concerts conducted by their father. Elizabeth was also a much-admired beauty; and, in 1772 she eloped to France with the twenty-one-year-old playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, future author of The Rivals and School for Scandal. The young couple were married in 1773, and Elizabeth was obliged to abandon her stage career. Soon husband and wife were leading separate lives and embarking on extramarital affairs; Elizabeth died of tuberculosis in 1792.

The exhibition, in the Frick’s Oval Room and Garden Court, is co-organized by Colin B. Bailey, Associate Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator at the Frick, and Xavier F. Salomon, Arturo and Holly Melosi Chief Curator at Dulwich. A fully illustrated catalogue, written by Dr. Salomon, features an essay on the origins of the collection at Dulwich as well as comprehensive entries on the nine works.

Principal funding for the exhibition is provided by Christie's and Melvin R. Seiden.

Additional support is generously provided by John and Constance Birkelund, Mr. and Mrs. Walter A. Eberstadt, Fiduciary Trust Company International, Barbara G. Fleischman, Francis Finlay, and Hester Diamond.

The accompanying catalogue is made possible by Jon and Barbara Landau.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.