The mid-eighteenth-century ‘conversation piece’ Peter Darnell Muilman, Charles Crokatt and William Keable in a Landscape was painted by Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) when he was still making a name for himself as landscape and portrait painter. It was acquired jointly by Gainsborough’s House and Tate in 1993 and is regarded as a masterpiece of this early phase of his career.
This project draws together expertise from the fields of art history, conservation, history of commerce and musicology to throw light on the social and cultural milieu that gave rise to the commission. It asks as many questions about the financial and social privileges of the portrait’s sitters as it does about Gainsborough himself, proposing new ways of understanding why Muilman, Crokatt and Keable presented themselves making music in the midst of a remote rustic landscape. (Dr. John Chu)