Edward and William Tomkinson, about 1784, Thomas Gainsborough (English, 1727–1788), oil on canvas
A master of portraiture, Gainsborough was a founding member of the Royal Academy in London. This double portrait of the Tomkinson cousins at about age 11 epitomizes the artist’s feathery late style. Dressed as refined, civilized young gentlemen, the youths are depicted as if resting during a stroll in the woods—a standard composition for Gainsborough’s outdoor portraits. Although the boys do not share a glance, they are linked compositionally like two branches of the same tree. This ambitious work is probably the picture that led to Gainsborough’s refusal to exhibit at the Royal Academy after his works were not hung to his satisfaction.