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Sir Joshua Reynolds
Self-portrait
Birth name Joshua Reynolds
Born 16 July 1723(1723-07-16)
Died 23 February 1792 (aged 68)
Nationality English

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an important and influential 18th century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealisation of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy. George III appreciated his merits and knighted him in 1769.

Contents

Biography

Reynolds was born in Plympton, Devon, on 16 July 1723. As one of eleven children, and the son of the village school-master, Reynolds was restricted to a formal education provided by his father. He exhibited a natural curiosity and, as a boy, came under the influence of Zachariah Mudge, whose Platonistic philosophy stayed with him all his life.

Showing an early interest in art, Reynolds was apprenticed in 1740 to the fashionable portrait painter Thomas Hudson, with whom he remained until 1743. From 1749 to 1752, he spent over two years in Italy, where he studied the Old Masters and acquired a taste for the "Grand Style". Unfortunately, whilst in Rome, Reynolds suffered a severe cold which left him partially deaf and, as a result, he began to carry a small ear trumpet with which he is often pictured. From 1753 until the end of his life he lived in London, his talents gaining recognition soon after his arrival in France.

Reynolds worked long hours in his studio, rarely taking a holiday. He was both gregarious and keenly intellectual, with a great number of friends from London's intelligentsia, numbered amongst whom were Dr Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Giuseppe Baretti, Henry Thrale, David Garrick and fellow artist Angelica Kauffmann. Because of his popularity as a portrait painter, Reynolds enjoyed constant interaction with the wealthy and famous men and women of the day, and it was he who first brought together the famous figures of "The" Club. By 1761 Reynolds could command a fee of 80 Guineas for a full-length portrait (Mr Fane); in 1764 he was paid 100 Guineas for a portrait of Lord Burghersh.[1]

With his rival Thomas Gainsborough, Reynolds was the dominant English portraitist of 'the Age of Johnson'. It is said that in his long life he painted as many as three thousand portraits. In 1789 he lost the sight of his left eye, which finally forced him into retirement. In 1791 James Boswell dedicated his Life of Samuel Johnson to Reynolds.

Reynolds died on 23 February 1792 in his house in Leicester Fields in London. He was buried at St. Paul's Cathedral.

Status and reputation

Professionally, Reynolds' career never peaked. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts, helped found the Society of Artists, and, with Gainsborough, established the Royal Academy of Arts as a spin-off organisation. In 1768 he was made the RA's first President, a position he held until his death. As a lecturer, Reynolds' Discourses on Art (delivered between 1769 and 1790) are remembered for their sensitivity and perception. In one of these lectures he was of the opinion that "invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory."

Reynolds and the Royal Academy have historically received a mixed reception. Critics include many of the Pre-Raphaelites, and William Blake, the latter having published his vitriolic Annotations to Sir Joshua Reynolds' Discourses in 1808. To the contrary, both J. M. W. Turner and James Northcote were fervent acolytes: Turner requested he be laid to rest at Reynolds' side, and Northcote (who lived for four years as Reynolds' pupil) wrote to his family "I know him thoroughly, and all his faults, I am sure, and yet almost worship him." The word worship is second cast; originally Northcote had written adore.

Character sketch

In appearance Reynolds was not at all striking. Slight of frame, he was just about 5'6" with dark brown curls, a florid complexion and features which James Boswell thought were "rather too largely and strongly limned." He had a broad face, a cleft chin, and the bridge of his nose was slightly dented; his skin was scarred by smallpox, and his upper lip disfigured as a result of falling from a horse as a young man. Nonetheless he was not considered ugly, and Edmond Malone asserted that "his appearance at first sight impressed the spectator with the idea of a well-born and well-bred English gentleman."

Renowned for his placidity, Reynolds often claimed that he "hated nobody". Never quite losing his Devonshire accent, he was not only an amiable and original conversationalist but a friendly and generous host, so that Fanny Burney recorded in her diary that he had "a suavity of disposition that set everybody at their ease in his society", and William Makepeace Thackeray believed "of all the polite men of that age, Joshua Reynolds was the finest gentleman." Dr. Johnson commented on the inoffensiveness of his nature; Edmund Burke noted his "strong turn for humor". Thomas Bernard, who later became Bishop of Killaloe, wrote in his verses on Reynolds:


"Dear knight of Plympton, teach me how
To suffer, with unruffled brow
And smile serene, like thine,
The jest uncouth or truth severe;
To such I'll turn my deafest ear
And calmly drink my wine.


Thou say'st not only skill is gained
But genius too may be attained
By studious imitation;
Thy temper mild, thy genius fine
I'll copy till I make them mine
By constant application."

Admittedly, some did construe Reynolds' equable calm as cool and unfeeling. Hester Lynch Piozzi's pen-portrait reads:


"Of Reynolds what good shall be said?- or what harm?
His temper too frigid; his pencil too warm;
A rage for sublimity ill understood,
To seek still for the great, by forsaking the good..."

It is to this luke-warm temperament that Frederick W. Hilles, Bodman Professor of English Literature at Yale attributes the fact Reynolds never married. In the editorial notes of his compendium Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Hilles theorizes that "as a corollary one might say that he [Reynolds] was somewhat lacking in a capacity for love", and cites Boswell's notary papers: "He said the reason he would never marry was that every woman whom he liked had grown indifferent to him, and he had been glad he did not marry her." Reynolds' own sister, Frances, who lived with him as housekeeper, took her own negative opinion further still, thinking him "a gloomy tyrant". Strangely, it was this very presence of family that compensated Reynolds for the absence of a wife; He wrote on one occasion to his friend Bennet Langton, that both his sister and niece were away from home "so that I am quite a bachelor." Biographer Ian McIntyre discusses the possibility of Reynolds having enjoyed sexual rendezvous with certain clients, such as Nelly O'Brien (or "My Lady O'Brien", as he playfully dubbed her) and Kitty Fisher, who visited his house for more sittings than were strictly necessary. Claims to this end are, however, purely speculative.

"Robert Clive and his family with an Indian maid", painted 1765.
Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney, The Archers, 1769. In September 2005, the Tate Gallery acquired the painting for over UK£2.5 million (US$4.4 million).
Court offices
Preceded by
Allan Ramsay
Principal Painter in Ordinary to the King
1784–1792
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Lawrence
Cultural offices
Preceded by
President of the Royal Academy
1768–1792
Succeeded by
Benjamin West

See also

References

  1. ^ The Times Sale Of The Vaile And Other Pictures 25 May 1903
  • Postle, Martin: Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity, Tate, 2005, ISBN 1854375644
  • Postle, Martin: Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Subject Pictures
  • Postle, Martin: Drawings of Joshua Reynolds

External links

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Paintings

Writings



Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Nature is, and must be the fountain which alone is inexhaustible; and from which all excellencies must originally flow.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, RA, FRS, FRSA (1723-07-161792-02-23) was an English artist, a founder member of the Literary Club, and the first President of the Royal Academy.

Sourced

  • What is a well-chosen collection of pictures, but walls hung round with thoughts?

Discourses on Art

Quotations are cited from The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 4th edition (1809)

  • Invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory: nothing can come of nothing.
  • You must have no dependence on your own genius. If you have great talents, industry will improve them; if you have but moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency.
    • Discourse no. 2; vol. 1, pp. 43-44.
  • A mere copier of nature can never produce any thing great, can never raise and enlarge the conceptions, or warm the heart of the spectator.
  • Could we teach taste or genius by rules, they would be no longer taste and genius.
    • Discourse no. 3; vol. 1, p. 57.
  • If deceiving the eye were the only business of the art, there is no doubt, indeed, but the minute painter would be more apt to succeed; but it is not the eye, it is the mind, which the painter of genius desires to address; nor will he waste a moment upon those smaller objects, which only serve to catch the sense, to divide the attention, and to counteract his great design of speaking to the heart.
    • Discourse no. 3; vol. 1, pp. 70-71.
  • A painter must compensate the natural deficiencies of his art. He has but one sentence to utter, but one moment to exhibit. He cannot, like the poet or historian, expatiate.
  • Words should be employed as the means, not as the end: language is the instrument, conviction is the work.
    • Discourse no. 4; vol. 1, p. 94.
  • A painter must not only be of necessity an imitator of the works of nature...but he must be as necessarily an imitator of the works of other painters: this appears more humiliating, but is equally true; and no man can be an artist, whatever he may suppose, upon any other terms.
  • The mind is but a barren soil; a soil which is soon exhausted, and will produce no crop, or only one, unless it be continually fertilized and enriched with foreign matter.
    • Discourse no. 6; vol. 1, pp. 157-8.
  • The greatest natural genius cannot subsist on its own stock: he who resolves never to ransack any mind but his own, will be soon reduced, from mere barrenness, to the poorest of all imitations; he will be obliged to imitate himself, and to repeat what he has before often repeated. When we know the subject designed by such men, it will never be difficult to guess what kind of work is to be produced.
    • Discourse no. 6; vol. 1, p. 158.
  • Nature is, and must be the fountain which alone is inexhaustible; and from which all excellencies must originally flow.
    • Discourse no. 6; vol. 1, p. 162.
  • What has pleased, and continues to please, is likely to please again: hence are derived the rules of art, and on this immoveable foundation they must ever stand.
  • Poetry operates by raising our curiosity, engaging the mind by degrees to take an interest in the event, keeping that event suspended, and surprising at last with an unexpected catastrophe. The painter's art is more confined, and has nothing that corresponds with, or perhaps is equivalent to, this power and advantage of leading the mind on, till attention is totally engaged. What is done by Painting, must be done at one blow; curiosity has received at once all the satisfaction it can ever have.
  • You are never to lose sight of nature; the instant you do, you are all abroad, at the mercy of every gust of fashion, without knowing or seeing the point to which you ought to steer.
  • The art of seeing Nature, or in other words, the art of using Models, is in reality the great object, the point to which all our studies are directed.
    • Discourse no. 12; vol. 2, p. 104.
  • No Art can be grafted with success on another art. For though they all profess the same origin, and to proceed from the same stock, yet each has its own peculiar modes both of imitating nature, and of deviating from it, each for the accomplishment of its own particular purpose. These deviations, more especially, will not bear transplantation to another soil.
  • The true test of all the arts, is not solely whether the production is a true copy of nature, but whether it answers the end of art, which is to produce a pleasing effect upon the mind.
    • Discourse no. 13; vol. 2, p. 136.

External links

Wikipedia
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Simple English

Sir Joshua Reynolds
File:Self-portrait c.1747-9 by Joshua Reynolds (2).jpg
Self-portrait
Birth name Joshua Reynolds
Born 16 July 1723(1723-07-16)
Died February 23, 1792 (aged 68)
Nationality English

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an English painter of portraits. He helped to start the Royal Academy of Arts and was its president.[1] King George III made him Sir Joshua Reynolds in 1769.

Reynolds has over 1000 portraits in one art gallery in London. Reynolds gave lectures which changed the subject of art.[1]

References

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Sir Joshua Reynolds, National Portrait Gallery, London, accessed September 2009


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