When Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) arrived in the spa town of Bath, England, at the age of thirty-one, he was an artist of modest reputation. When he left sixteen years later, he was recognized as one of Europe's foremost painters. In this exceptional book, Susan Sloman examines for the first time how this transformation took place. She offers an entirely new view of Gainsborough's development during his middle years as well as abundant new information about Bath and its role, for a few decades in the eighteenth century, as a cultural center of Europe. Drawing on freshly discovered documents and a variety of little-known contemporary published sources, Sloman illuminates artistic activity in Bath and Gainsborough's part in it. She reveals how Gainsborough's prominence as an artist and Bath's as a cultural hub were intimately connected during a period in which the artist and his town flourished together.