Stylistically, Sir Joshua Reynolds was influenced by Michelangelo and the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens. Reynolds' portraits were distinguished by calm dignity, classical allusions, rich color, and realistic portrayal of character. His portraits form an epitome of London society of his day. Knighted in 1768, he came to be the first English painter to achieve social recognition for his artistic achievements. He, along with Thomas Gainsborough, was the dominant English portraitist of the era.
Reynolds approached art from a philosophical and scientific standpoint, and was an accomplished academic. He maintained close friendships with some of the premier intellectual figures of the day, including essayist and critic Samuel Johnson, actor David Garrick and fellow artist Angelica Kauffmann. As one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy, Reynolds promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts. He encouraged society's interest in contemporary art and, with Thomas Gainsborough, established the Royal Academy as a spin-out organization. In 1769 he delivered the first of his annual lectures, or Discourses, published in 1778, to the students of the academy in which he set forth the idealistic, moralizing principles of academic art. These Discourses, which he delivered between 1769 and 1790, are remembered for their sensitivity and perception.
South Kensington, London, National Portrait Exhibition, 1867, no. 425 (lent by Viscount Sydney, G.C.B.)
Artist’s Museums and Collections:
Louvre Museum, Paris
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
The Royal Collection, London
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia