Gainsborough was a friend to fellow landscape artist De Loutherbourg. Both artists engaged in work for theatres and the two probably met via David Garrick, the actor-manger of Drury Lane.
In the present portrait we see De Loutherbourg at ease, in a fleeting moment of contemplation with his arms resting on portfolios of paper, possibly drawings. Considered unfinished by some, the portrait's charm lies in this informality: here is an example of Gainsborough exercising his artistic freedom to depict his friend as he wishes. De Loutherbourg's reciprocal portrait of Gainsborough is at the Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven.