Joshua Reynolds is a famous English artist of the 18th century, an outstanding master of ceremonial portrait. Joshua Reynolds’s paintings are gorgeous examples of the nobility and monumentality of the genre of the Classicism era. The work of the master was highly appreciated by his contemporaries, and his fame extended far beyond the borders of his native England.
Joshua Reynolds was a very active and versatile person, his range of interests was not limited only to painting. So, he, together with Samuel Johnson (Samuel Johnson) with Edmund Burke (Edmund Burke) in 1764, founded the elite literary club The Club in London, which still exists today.
Joshua Reynolds was born in 1723, in the small town of Plympton, in the south-west of England, in the family of an Anglican priest, director of a local gymnasium. The father dreamed that his son would become a doctor, but the boy showed an early interest in painting and expressed a desire to become an artist.
In 1741, the young Reynolds moved to London, where he studied for several years with the portrait painter Thomas Hudson. Then the young artist lived for 3 years in Devonport, after which he returned to the capital of England.
In 1749, Joshua met the commander of the fleet, Augustus Keppel, and went with him on a voyage along the coast of France, Spain and Portugal on a warship. During the trip, the artist painted the first of six portraits of the famous British sailor, visited Lisbon, Cadiz, Algeria, the island of Menorca and soon sailed to Italy. Here Reynolds went ashore and went to Rome to see firsthand the works of the great Italian masters of painting.
Joshua spent 3 years on the Apennine Peninsula, traveled a lot around the country, visited Florence, Bologna and Venice. The Italian masters had a tremendous influence on the young artist, especially Tiziano and Correggio.
Upon his return to London in 1752, Joshua Reynolds founded his own workshop and quickly gained fame in the highest circles of British society. The artist easily made new acquaintances, and his ambitious full-length portraits were a huge success. From that time until the end of his life, Reynolds was a very popular painter, and customers lined up for him.
Joshua Reynolds was responsible for his duties as President of the Academy.
For many years he gave lectures to students on art theory and wrote treatises on this topic. Thanks to him, the first art exhibitions appeared in England, without which it is impossible to imagine the cultural life of London today.
Shortly before his death, the artist began to have serious vision problems, and he stopped seeing with one eye. On February 23, 1792, Joshua Reynolds died at his home with friends and family. The painter did not start a family and did not leave behind heirs, but he was an indisputable authority in the field of art in his homeland. He was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral, the tomb of the finest men in Great Britain. He will forever remain in the memory of posterity.
The most famous paintings by Joshua Reynolds
All the most famous paintings by Joshua Reynolds belong to the portrait genre. Although the artist sometimes painted landscapes and works on historical themes, it was portraits that brought him resounding fame. Including:
- “Commander Venerable August Keppel” (1749) is the first ceremonial portrait by the great painter, thanks to which the world learned about the emergence of a new talented artist.
- Portrait of Penelope Boothby (1788) is a classic children’s portrait of the Romantic era. Unfortunately, the heroine of the picture died at the age of 6, but her image, created by the master, became iconic in British art for several centuries.
- The Age of Innocence (1785) is another charming child’s portrait. The cute image of this girl subsequently appeared many times in print, and the name of the picture was used by the American writer Edith Wharton for her most famous novel.
- Lady Waldegrave (1781) is an exquisite group portrait of young girls. Their mother ordered the painting from the artist to attract potential suitors and her hopes came true.