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 Joshua Reynolds  (1723 - 1792)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/England      Known for: portrait painting-Grand Style

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BIOGRAPHY for Joshua Reynolds
1723 (Plympton Earl, Devonshire, England)
1792 (London, England)

United Kingdom/England

Self portrait -

Often Known For
portrait painting-Grand Style

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Sir Joshua Reynolds was born at Plympton Earl in Devonshire, England in 1723. In 1740, after acknowledging the precocity of his talent, he was sent by his father to London, where he studied with Thomas Hudson, a competent but totally uninspired specialist in portraits. He worked in Plymouth Dock, London and Devonshire before sailing for Italy in 1750. The two years he spent there had a profound influence upon him and his subsequent career. His lifelong admiration for Michelangelo, Raphael, Guido Reni, Corregio, and Titian stemmed from this sojourn. From them he was later to borrow his poses, coloring and technical innovations.

From the moment Reynolds set up business in London in 1753, until his left eye went blind in 1789, he enjoyed immense success, so much that he had to keep raising his prices to stem the tide of sitters. Never having learned to draw with ease under Hudson, and having been brought up in the accepted studio tradition whereby much of the work was done by assistants, Reynolds employed his own or made use of successful drapery painters such as Peter Toms. It was common practice for him to paint the face and hands and provide a sketch of the pose, which would then be finished by an assistant, pupil, or professional drapery painter. In many cases, he would go over the picture again and apply the final touches. Despite this practice, which is alien to the 20th century mind, Reynolds portraits are unmistakably Reynolds' creations.

Gainsborough and Reynolds were rivals in their own time and have been rivals in public estimation ever since. Occasionally their portraits have a certain outer resemblance, largely because they both painted their subjects in the same fashionable costumes. But Gainsborough was as impulsive and unreasoning as Reynolds was cool and intellectual, so although they respected each other's work the two could scarcely have been friends.

In 1768 Reynolds became the first President of the Royal Academy; he was also elected mayor of his native Plympton. He resigned as President of the Academy in 1790 after a quarrel with the Council. He died in 1792.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

M. Kirby Talley, Jr. in ARTnews, January 1991
William Feaver in "ARTNews", May 1986
Masterpieces of Art, Catalogue of the New York World's Fair 1940
Metropolitan Museum of Art Miniatures: Great European Portraits

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