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Home / Great Artists / R / Sir Joshua Reynolds / Biography
Biography Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds Biography


English Rococo Painter

Sir Joshua Reynolds (July 16, 1723 - February 23, 1792) was the most important and influential of 18th century English painters, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization 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.
Reynolds was born in Plympton St Maurice, Devon, on 16 July 1723, and 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, mainly in Rome, where he studied the Old Masters and acquired a taste for the "Grand Style". From 1753 on, he lived and worked in London. He became a close friend of Dr Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Henry Thrale, David Garrick and fellow artist Angelica Kauffmann. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts: he encouraged that society's interest in contemporary art and, with Gainsborough, established the Royal Academy as a spin-out organisation.
Many of his works show children in various states of un-dress. It is unlikely that such an interest would escape criticism in today's world, regardless of artistic merit.
With his rival Thomas Gainsborough, he was the dominant English portraitist of the second half of the 18th century. Reynolds painted in more of an idealized fashion than his rival. Reynolds was a brilliant academic. His lectures (Discourses) on art, delivered at the Royal Academy 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." In 1789 he lost the sight of his left eye, and on 23 February 1792 he died in his house in Leicester Fields, London. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.