Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds was an influential eighteenth-century English painter, 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. King George III appreciated his merits and knighted him in 1769.

Reynolds was born in Plympton, Devon. As a boy, he came under the influence of Zachariah Mudge, whose Platonistic philosophy stayed with him all his life. Having shown an early interest in art, Reynolds was apprenticed in 1740 to the fashionable London portrait painter Thomas Hudson. Reynolds worked for some time as a portrait-painter in Plymouth Dock (now Devonport). He returned to London before the end of 1744.

In 1749, Reynolds met Commodore Augustus Keppel, who invited him to join HMS Centurion, of which he had command, on a voyage to the Mediterranean. While with the ship he visited Lisbon, Cadiz, Algiers, and Minorca. From Minorca he travelled to Livorno in Italy, and then to Rome, where he spent two years, studying the Old Masters and acquiring a taste for the "Grand Style". Reynolds travelled homeward overland via Florence, Bologna, Venice, and Paris.

Following his arrival in England in October 1752, he achieved success rapidly, and was extremely prolific. Alongside ambitious full-length portraits, Reynolds painted large numbers of smaller works. In the late 1750s, at the height of the social season, he received five or six sitters a day, each for an hour. Reynolds emphasized the natural grace of children in his paintings. He emphasized the innocence and natural grace of children when depicting them.

Reynolds worked long hours in his studio, rarely taking a holiday. He was gregarious and keenly intellectual, with many friends from London's intelligentsia. Because of his popularity as a portrait painter, Reynolds enjoyed constant interaction with the wealthy and famous men and women of the day. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts, helped found the Society of Artists, and, with Gainsborough, established the Royal Academy of Arts, a spin-off organisation. In 1768 he was made the Royal Academy's first president, a position he held until his death.

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