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Sir Joshua Reynolds


 English Rococo Era Painter,

Stylistically influenced by the following painters and art movements - Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens Titian, Raphael, High Renaissance,   Classical Greek and  Baroque  Art

Education - studied under Thomas Hudson

Sir Joshua Reynolds Biography

Joshua Reynolds was born on the 15th of July, 1723, the son of a clergyman and schoolmaster, at Plympton in Devonshire. His bent for Art was clear and strong from his childhood. In 1741 at the age of nineteen,
he began study, and studied for two yours in London under Thomas Hudson, a successful portrait painter. Then he went back to Devonshire and painted portraits, aided for some time in his education by attention to
the work of William Gandy of Exeter. When twenty-six years old, in May, 1749, Reynolds was taken away by Captain Keppel to the Mediterranean, and brought into contact with the works of the great painters of Italy. He stayed two years in Rome, and in accordance with the principles afterwards laid down in these lectures, he refused, when in Rome, commissions for copying, and gave his mind to minute observation of the
art of the great masters by whose works he was surrounded. He spent two months in Florence, six weeks in Venice, a few days in Bologna and Parma.
"If," he said, "I had never seen any of the fine works of Correggio, I should never, perhaps, have remarked in Nature the expression which I find in one of his pieces; or if I had remarked it, I might have thought it too difficult, or perhaps impossible to execute."

According to noted Art Historian Estelle M Hurll, "Reynolds was frankly a borrower from many sources. In the Roman, the Bolognese, the Venetian, Flemish, and Dutch schools, he found something to appropriate and make his own. From Rembrandt he took suggestions of lighting, and such somber color harmonies as are seen in the portrait of Mrs. Siddons. Something of bloom and splendor he caught from the florid Rubens; something of the decorative effectiveness of such pictures as Lady Cockburn may be traced to the influence of Titian and the Venetians. Yet to all that he borrowed, Reynolds added his own individual touch. As a critic has said, he was always Reynolds from first to last.

Much has been written of the evanescence of Reynolds's colors. His passion for color experiments amounted to a mania, and cost the world many beautiful pictures. Precisely what was the nature of these experiments, and what combination of pigments ruined his pictures, is of interest only to the expert. Fortunately, enough pictures escaped to show us the original glory of those which have faded. Among the best preserved canvases, "those in which his power and brilliancy appear least impaired, those in which the typical Sir Joshua still most unmistakably shines forth," are Lady Cockburn and her Children, Miss Bowles, Mrs. Siddons, and Angels' Heads.

The range of Reynolds's art is much wider than is commonly supposed. A very imperfect appreciation of his[x] gifts is gained by those who know only his portraits of women and children. These indeed show a peculiar insight into childhood, and a rare delicacy in the interpretation of womanhood. But Reynolds is at his strongest in the portrayal of men. It is by such portraits as the Johnson and Heathfield that he is worthy a place among the immortals."

In 1753 Reynolds came back to England, and stayed three months in Devonshire before setting up a studio in London, in St. Martin's Lane,
which was then an artists' quarter. His success was rapid. In 1755 he had one hundred and twenty-five sitters. Samuel Johnson found in him his
most congenial friend. He moved to Newport Street, and he built himself a studio--where there is now an auction room--at 47, Lincoln's Inn Fields. There he remained for life.

In 1760 the artists opened, in a room lent by the Society of Arts, a free Exhibition for the sale of their works. This was continued the next year at Spring Gardens, with a charge of a shilling for admission. In 1765
they obtained a charter of incorporation, and in 1768 the King gave his support to the foundation of a Royal Academy of Arts by seceders from the preceding "Incorporated Society of Artists," into which personal feelings had brought much division. It was to consist, like the French Academy, of forty members, and was to maintain Schools open to all students of good character who could give evidence that they had fully learnt the rudiments of Art. The foundation by the King dates from the 10th of December, 1768. The Schools were opened on the 2nd of January next following, and on that occasion Joshua Reynolds, who had been elected President--his age was then between forty-five and forty-six--gave the Inaugural Address which formed the first of these Seven Discourses. The other six were given by him, as President, at the next six annual meetings: and they were all shaped to form, when collected into a volume, a coherent body of good counsel upon the foundations of the painter's art.

The Rococo Art Movement

The Rococo movement was initially restricted to France, later spreading to all of Europe and above all to England. The movement continued to develop until the arrival of Neoclassicism which attempted to return to the purism of classical antiquity. Rococo art themes centered around carefree aristocrats at play in make-believe settings. Cherubs were often included in the mix to give the work a touch of delightful whimsy.  Romantic scenes depict luxuriously costumed ladies and gentlemen flirting, picnicking and playing music at gallant country parties.  The background scenery is often a serene natural setting with delicate trees and sprays of roses. Colors are a profusion of soothing, light pastels. Famous Rocco painter, Joshua Reynolds stated "The great use in copying, if it be at all useful, should seem to be in learning to colour; yet even coloring will never be perfectly attained by servilely copying the mould before you. An eye critically nice can only be formed by observing well-colored pictures with attention: and by close inspection, and minute examination you will discover, at last, the manner of handling, the artifices of contrast, glazing, and other expedients, by which good colorists have raised the value of their tints, and by which nature has been so happily imitated."" 

Key Descriptive Words and Phrases associated with the Rococo  Movement -   Late Baroque, tapestry, Charlottenburg Palace, Versailles, 18th century, France, colloquialism, Louis XV's reign, frills, powdered wigs, masks, whimsy, garish makeup, men in high heels, cherubs, elaborate recipes, pre-revolution,  rediscovery of the classical world, Château de Chantilly, ethereal  background scenery, melodramatic, decorative,  Age of Discovery, axonometric drawing, curiosity about the natural world,  pastel colors,  romanticized landscapes, courtship themed paintings

Sir Joshua Reynolds Greatest Quotations

A room hung with pictures is a room hung with thoughts." -Sir Joshua Reynolds Quote

"The real character of a man is found out by his amusements." -Sir Joshua Reynolds

"If you have great talents, industry will improve them: if you have but moderate abilities, industry will supply their deficiency. -Sir Joshua Reynolds

When the artist is once enabled to express himself with some degree of correctness, he must then endeavor to collect subjects for expression; to amass a stock of ideas, to be combined and varied as occasion may require." -- Joshua Reynolds

"There is another caution which I wish to give you. Be as select in those whom you endeavor to please, as in those whom you endeavor to imitate. Without the love of fame you can never do anything excellent; but by an
excessive and undistinguishing thirst after it, you will come to have vulgar views; you will degrade your style; and your taste will be entirely corrupted. It is certain that the lowest style will be the most popular, as it falls within the compass of ignorance itself; and the vulgar will always be pleased with what is natural in the confined and misunderstood sense of the word." -- Joshua Reynolds


Principle Artists of the Rococo Period
Pompeo Batoni Italian,1708-1787
Bernardo Bellotto Italian,1720-1780
Francois Boucher French, 1703-1770
Canaletto Italian, 1697-1768
Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin French,
Jean-Honoré Fragonard French,
Thomas Gainsborough English, 1727-1823
Francisco de Goya Spanish, 1746-1828
Thomas Hudson English,1701-1779
Jean-Marc Nattier French, 1685-1766
Joshua Reynolds English, 1723-1792
Paul Sandby English, 1730-1809
Jean Antoine Watteau French,

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Refernce - Sir Joshua Reynolds; A Collection of Fifteen Pictures and a Portrait of the Painter with Introduction and Interpretation Hurll, Estelle M.