Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds, PRA FRSA (* July 16, 1723 in Plympton near Plymouth, Devon, England; † February 23, 1792 in London) was, along with William Hogarth and Thomas Gainsborough 's most famous and artistic by its and art theoretical work of the most influential English painter the 18th century. In 1768 he became the first president of the newly founded Royal Academy of Arts.


Early years

Reynolds was born the son of a clergyman and began seventeen years an apprenticeship with the portrait painter Thomas Hudson in London. They were identified four years of apprenticeship, but after two and a half years left Reynolds workshop Hudsons again, as he had learned everything Hudson could teach him. In the following years he tried his hand at Plymouth in portraiture.

The trip to Italy and their influence

When he was in Italy from 1750 to 1752, he completed his artistic training. He was fascinated by the art of antiquity and the High Renaissance, especially of the works of Raphael and Michelangelo, which did not prevent him, however, to paint some funny parodies of their works, such as a parody of Raphael's School of Athens. But the Venetians left their influence in Reynolds ' works.

Turning to the " Grand Style" with its borrowings from the great masters

Back in London, the Italian influence in his work is unmistakable. Henceforth dedicated to Reynolds the "Grand Style" and becomes the champion of a portrait and history painting, which is based on the ideal of the great art of bygone eras. With his method of "borrowing ", he took actions, attitudes or gestures of other masters in his work. This was not simply copying the old masters, but a Compete with these.

The ennoblement of English portrait painting

In the 18th century portraiture was in England mainly in demand, because nobles and wealthy businessmen wanted to see above all themselves represented on the walls of their rooms in an idealized form. In addition to trust, even though it was estimated other genres, English painters no history paintings in the grand style to, but only foreign artists, especially Italians and French. In this case, the time presented the history painting, the highest genus within the painting dar. This genus was, however, bought by collectors primarily in Italy, and to put on a par with the painting in other European countries, English painting, it was the English history painting, how to make at the beginning of the 18th century only a few local artists, such as James Thornhill cultivated, more socially acceptable. To achieve this, Reynolds approached to the portrait of the history. This approach meant an idealization and increase of the portrait, which was well received by the customers. Reynolds becoming the most popular portrait painter in London.

President of the Royal Academy of Arts (1768 - 1792)

When in 1768 the Royal Academy of Arts was founded, was King George III. , Of a trailer Reynolds was not necessarily due to its popularity among the public no choice but to appoint him President. And the following year, Reynolds was knighted for his services. In the position of the Academy president, it was easier for him to reach his goal, the ennoblement of English painting.

History painting

In 1773 he ventured for the first time, a history painting, Ugolino and his sons in the dungeon to exhibit in the Royal Academy, to bring the public and to other genres apart from portraiture.

The " Discourses on Art "

His discourses held annually at the awards ceremony at the Royal Academy served to increase the English art. On the one hand he tried English painting with the help of the doctrine " ut pictura poesis ", which compares the painting with the art of poetry to provide a tradition, on the other hand, he propagated the history of painting and the "Grand Style", the only appropriate in his opinion the represented style for this genre. Thus he influenced by his works exhibited and his discourses the taste of collectors and art production.

Trip to Flanders

In 1781 he undertook a journey to Flanders and Holland, which also led him in some German cities like Aachen, Cologne and Dusseldorf. Here he was ' greatly influenced by the Art Rubens. He was thrilled by the application of paint and the informal presentation of his subjects. In Reynolds works is now a more painterly style to notice, and the representation in his paintings is vivid and dramatic.

The last years

1784 Reynolds was appointed court painter to the king. 1789, however, he went blind and had to give up painting.


Reynolds has managed English painting to provide a tradition and renew the untapped local history painting and make presentable for a wide audience. With his academic discourses he made the sole authority within the English art theory for a long time dar.

Reynolds has distinguished himself as a portrait painter. In the keen sense for shapes and the strong presentation, he surpassed all previous English painter, and also in the color he achieved a rare freshness. But he lacked originality. As eclectic he sought the benefits of Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt and Correggio to unite, but got there in coloristic experiments that have ruined many of his paintings. Particularly well he succeeded in the representation of the youth and freshness of the naive nature of children. From today's perspective, less successful are the remarks of his historical pictures, but these can miss the ease of composition and the veracity of the representation. One of his best paintings is the death of Cardinal Beaufort and of great grace his love of God, the beauty of the belt expectorant. Its held by him as president of the Academy of Painting " Discourses " (London 1778 and later repeatedly reissued; German first Dresden 1781) are characterized by the elegance of the style and the richness of the philosophical and aesthetic thought.


  • The young Crewe as Henry VIII, 1776, canvas, 51 × 110 cm. London, Coll Marquess of Crewe.
  • Dr. John Mudge, 1752, canvas, 80 × 62 cm.
  • Edward Holden Cruttendens children, 1763, canvas, 174 × 170 cm. New York, Coll M. Field.
  • Elizabeth Gunning, Duchess of Hamilton and Argyll, 1758-60, canvas, 234 × 145 cm. Port Sunlight (Cheshire ), Lady Lever Art Gallery.
  • Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy, 1760-61, canvas, 172 × 181 cm. Rushbrooke, Coll Lord Rothschild.
  • Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire and her daughter Georgiana, 1786, canvas, 44 × 141 cm. London, Coll Duke of Devonshire.
  • Jeremiah Meyer's daughter Mary as lifting, 1772, canvas, 129 × 99 cm. London, Coll A. de Rothschild.
  • Lady Anne Lennox, Countess of Albemarle, 1757-59, canvas, 126 × 101 cm. London, National Gallery.
  • Lady Elizabeth Keppel, 1757-59, canvas, 72 × 61 cm. London, Coll A. de Rothschild.
  • Lady Sarah Bunbury sacrificing the Three Graces, 1765

Portrait of Colonel George KH Coussmaker from the Regiment of Grenadiers of the Guard, 1770-80

The Sisters Waldegrave, 1770-80

Charles Burney, 1781

William Fawcett, 1785

Venus and Cupid, 1788