Thomas Gainsborough, English, 1727-1788
Title: General James Johnston (1721-1797)
Date: c.1763
Medium: Oil on canvas
Credit Line: Bequeathed, Sir Hugh Lane, 1918
Object Number: NGI.794
Label TextJohnston was a mere major when he sat for this portrait, although he was reputedly the finest swordsman in the army. It is likely Gainsborough made this portrait shortly before Johnston’s marriage to Lady Cecilia West. The artist had recently arrived in London from Bath, and his typical style had yet to mature. According to Horace Walpole’s diary, Gainsborough begged the dashing officer to sit as he was ‘so handsome and fashionable’. He exhibited the portrait for a considerable time, and later presented it to the sitter.

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