Reynolds, Joshua

Reynolds, Joshua (Sir), considered the founder of the English school of painting as regards its special characteristics, was born at Plympton, in Devonshire (where his father was rector), July 16. 1723. He was intended for the medical profession, but was induced by the perusal of Richardson's Essays on Painting, etc., to take up painting as a profession. A handsome edition of these essays was in 1773 dedicated to Sir Joshua by Richardson's son, comprising The Theory of Painting, Essay on the Art of Criticism, and The Science of a Connoisseur. Reynolds's first master was Hudson, the portrait-painter, with whom he was placed in 1741. He first set up as a portrait-painter at Devonport, but in 1746 settled in London, in St. Martin's Lane. In 1749 he accompanied Commodore Keppel in the Centurion to the Mediterranean, and remained altogether about three years in Italy. He commenced business again in London in 1752, and soon became the most prominent painter of the capital. In 1768, when the Royal Academy was established, Reynolds was unanimously elected president at the first meeting of the members, Dec. 14 of that year, and he was knighted by George III in consequence. In 1784 he succeeded Allan Ramsay as principal painter in ordinary to the king; and, after an unrivalled career as a portrait-painter, died at his house in Leicester Square, Feb. 23, 1792. He was buried with great pomp in St. Paul's Cathedral, where a fine statue by Flaxman is placed immediately below the dome, in honor of his memory. His large fortune, about £80,000, was inherited by his niece, Miss Palmer, who became afterwards marchioness of Thomond. His collection of works of art sold for nearly £17,000. Sir Joshua Reynolds, notwithstanding his careless and feeble drawing, was indisputably a great painter; some of his portraits are among the first masterpieces of the art, whether as simple portraits or as fancy pieces; as, for instance, Lord Heathfield, in the National Gallery of the former class, and Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse, at Dulwich, of the latter. His pictures are necessarily very numerous. Their chief excellence is their natural grace, fulness of expression; substantial character, and frequently a charming richness of color and light and shade. Among the most remarkable are The Cardinal and Christian Virtues. Nativity, and Holy Family. His eulogium cannot be better expressed than in the words of Burke: "He was the first Englishman who added the praise of the elegant arts to the other glories of his country... The loss of no man of his time can be felt with more sincere, general, and unmixed sorrow." Sir Joshua has bequeathed to posterity, besides his paintings, fifteen elegant and valuable Discourses, of which a magnificent edition, edited by John Burnet, was published by James Carpenter in 1842. A later edition was published (Hudson, O. 1853, 12mo); and his Life and Discourses (N. Y. 1859, 12mo). There is a full Life of Reynolds by Northcote (Lond. 1819, 2 vols. 8vo).

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