Joshua Reynolds

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Joshua Reynolds: An English Painter



Sir Joshua Reynolds (July 16, 1723 - February 23, 1792) was an English painter specializing in portraits. John Russell said he was one of the leading European painters of the 18th century. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting, which was based on the idealization of the imperfect. He was the first president and founder of the Royal Academy of Arts and was knighted by George III in 1769. 


 Lifestyle and Career of Joshua Reynolds:

Joshua Reynolds was considered a key figure in the academy and the leading portraitist of his time. His pioneering Discourses on Art, still printed and widely translated today, had a tremendous impact on the development of British art. 


 The son of a Devonshire minister and schoolmaster, Reynolds received extensive training before apprenticing to the portrait painter Thomas Hudson at the age of 17. In 1749 he was invited to join the HMS Centurion on a trip to the Mediterranean; Reynolds landed in Rome and stayed there for two years to study the Old Masters. 


 Artworks of Thomas Gainsborough:

Reynolds set up a studio in London and quickly established himself as a portraitist, making important aristocratic connections in the process. His circle of friends included personalities from the 18th century, such as Dr. Samuel Johnson, actor, and playwright. David Garrick and statesman Edmund Burke painted memorable portraits of all of them. 


 Reynolds played a pivotal role in organizing the group of 34 artists and architects, who signed a petition to create a Royal Academy of the Arts, hold annual exhibitions of works by living artists, known as the Summer Exhibition, and an independent art school. 


 However, Reynolds was not a court favorite and only painted the king once on behalf of the inauguration of the Royal Academy's first official at Somerset House in 1780. 


 Between 1769 and 1790, Reynolds presented his art theories in a series of fifteen lectures at the Royal Academy schools published as Discourses on Art as a model and should seek to idealize nature rather than copy it to establish what came to be known as the "great art" of painting.

Reynolds classified painting epic and historical scenes as the highest genre of art, although he rarely painted himself due to the high demand for his portraits. He used his knowledge of the Old Masters to enliven many of his portraits. His full-length portrait of Captain Keppel, showing the naval commander moving forward with energy, is based on the classic Apollo Belvedere statue. 

Some artists like Nathanial Hone felt too dependent on the old masters. He painted a picture called "The Conjurer" of old masters in engravings revolving around the magician, an evening reference to his practice. 



Another royal scholar, Thomas Gainsborough, quarreled with Reynolds for years before seeking reconciliation on his deathbed, writing that he had always sincerely admired and loved Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds' death was very unfortunate. When he died in 1792, Edmund Burke's eulogy was honored as "the first Englishman to add the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country." 


 Thomas Gainsborough's body was in the Royal Academy before being transferred to St. Paul's Cathedral, and the procession consisted of ninety-one carriages with many distinguished figures. It was followed by all academics and students of the RA Schools. 

There is a statue of Alfred Drury installed in 1931. This statue still welcomes visitors to the Royal Academy today; the fountains and lights around the statue reflect the orientation of the planets, moon, and stars at midnight in the Night of Reynolds' birth.