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Sir Joshua Reynolds (British, 1723-1792)

Also known as:  Joshua Reynolds; Reynolds, Sir Joshua; Sir Joshua Reynold; Sir Joshua Raynolds

Birth Place: Plympton (City of Plymouth, England, United Kingdom)

Sir Joshua Reynolds was an 18th century artist famous for his portraits of wealthy and important people. Born in Devon, England in 1723, Reynolds displayed passion for the fine arts starting at a young age.

Reynolds enjoyed classical aspects of European art— realism and elegance— that are reflected in his life’s work. He apprenticed for four years to the successful London portraitist Sir Thomas Hudson. Later, he traveled to the Mediterranean to study ancient Greco-Roman sculpture and Renaissance painting.

In 1753, several artists including Reynolds founded The Royal Academy, hoping to increase the refinement and popularity of British art. The school thrived, and Reynolds became its first president in 1768. The following year, he was knighted and appointed official court painter of King George III. It is important to note that, despite his new title, Reynolds was disliked by the King, who considered Reynolds’ paintings coarse and unfinished.

Reynolds remained president of The Royal Academy until his death in 1792. Each year, he delivered a speech to help aspiring artists learn about commitment to technique and rigorous academic training. They are published as ‘Discourses Delivered at The Royal Academy (1769-1791)’ and are among the most important art criticism of the time.

Despite Reynolds’ success as a portraitist, academic, and scholar, he received his fair share of critique. In addition to being unpopular with the King and Queen of England, he was also despised by the Prince of Wales. Some of the technical aspects of his painting were not sound, and have caused his creations to fade and crumble over time.

Although he never married, Reynolds became close friends with many people of importance, most of whose portraits he commissioned. It seems he related to others with the same tenderness and dignity apparent in his art.

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