Reynolds, Sir Joshua
English painter in the Grand Manner, who was the foremost portraitist of his day and one of the most important and influential figures in the history of English painting. Sir Joshua Reynolds was born in Plympton, Devonshire, the son of a cleric and schoolmaster. He learned portraiture in London from the painter Thomas Hudson, and in 1749 he sailed to the Mediterranean with Commodore Augustus Keppel. After three years traveling in Italy he returned to London, where soon he attracted notice for his portraits of prominent figures. Sir Joshua came to be the first English painter to achieve social recognition and elevated status for his artistic achievements.
In 1764 Sir Joshua Reynolds founded the Literary Club, which included essayist and critic Samuel Johnson, actor David Garrick, statesman Edmund Burke, writer Oliver Goldsmith, writer James Boswell, and dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan. When the Royal Academy of Arts was instituted in 1768, Reynolds was elected president and was knighted. In 1769 he delivered the first of his annual Discourses (published 1778) to the students of the academy, in which he set forth the idealistic, moralizing principles of academic art. In 1784 he succeeded Allan Ramsay as painter to the king. In the same year Sir Joshua Reynolds exhibited his portrait of the English actor Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse (one version, 1784, Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, California), probably his greatest portrait. Other well-known oil paintings are Nelly O'Brien (1760-1762, Wallace Collection, London), Lady Sarah Bunbury Sacrificing to the Graces (1765, Art Institute of Chicago), Heads of Angels (1787, Tate Gallery, London), and Age of Innocence (1788, Tate Gallery).
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