Abel is best remembered as a practitioner and composer of the viola de gamba (a bowed instrument similar to a cello). He was such a talented performer that after his death in 1787 The Morning Post reflected that the viola de gamba would ‘probably die with him.’ Through portraits, drawings and caricatures this exhibition explores the life and career of Abel and his close relationship with Thomas Gainsborough.
Central to the exhibition is the great portrait of Abel painted by Thomas Gainsborough, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. Gainsborough was a great friend of Abel and he exchanged paintings and sketches with him, in return for music and instruments.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88) was born in Sudbury and baptised at the Independent Meeting-House in Friars Street on 14 May 1727, the fifth son and ninth child of John and Mary Gainsborough. In 1958, Gainsborough’s House Society was formed to purchase the house and establish it as a centre for Thomas Gainsborough. The Museum opened to the public in 1961 and has remained open for over 50 years. The beautiful historic garden at the heart of Gainsborough’s House is maintained by a devoted body of volunteers, who garden exclusively with plants that were available in Gainsborough’s lifetime.
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