Thomas Gainsborough’s ‘Showbox’ Paintings

Fascinating

A R T L▼R K

On the 2nd of August 1788, English painter Thomas Gainsborough died in London at the age of 61. One of the most unusual artworks created by the artist, now on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is his experimental showbox with his back-lit landscapes painted in oils on glass, which allowed them to be changed and viewed like slides. Made in the 1780s, the minuscule works can be seen in this specially constructed ‘showbox’,  a machine consisting of a number of moveable transparent planes, lit at the back, and through an adjustable magnifying lens. Originally, the painted glass transparency was set before a silk diffusing screen illuminated by three candles. The box opens at the top and back and even has special slots for storing the transparencies.

Visitors to the Victoria and Albert Museum today can experience something of the magic of Gainsborough’s show box, which is on view…

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