Artist
Joshua Reynolds
English painter, specialising in portraits

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Joshua Reynolds
English painter, specialising in portraits

Birth Date

1723

Death Date

1792

Contributor

Pablo Picasso might have been speaking of Joshua Reynolds when he said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” 

Joshua Reynolds (Sir Joshua to you) discovered his own talent for art by imitating his older sisters’ sketches.  At the height of his career, he cranked out 100 portraits a year by borrowing poses from earlier artists, and outsourcing his signature classical drapery and costume to studio minions. In his defense, this was common practice at the time.

He was also a whiney little baby.  Reynolds and his colleague/rival Thomas Gainsborough co-founded the Royal Academy, and Reynolds was elected the first president. When he and Gainsborough competed for the office of Principal Painter to the King, Reynolds threatened to resign from the Academy if he didn’t get the position. When he got the position, he complained about how much he hated it, saying, “The King’s rat catcher I believe is a better place.” We hope that Gainsborough bitch-slapped him.

Despite the grandiose aesthetic and derivative poses of his works, Reynolds’ goal was to humanize his subjects. A social butterfly and casual drinker who believed that wine loosened the tongue, he had lively conversations with his sitters as he painted them to get an impression of their character.  Thus he developed a colorful intellectual circle that included such luminaries as stage star Sarah Siddons and fellow painter Angelica Kauffman.

Reynolds loved the ladies in general and found that he got more customers by populating his studio with the famous beauties of the day.  He courted the famous diarist and novelist Fanny Burney, but she refused to accept a marriage proposal after he suffered a paralytic stroke.  He is also rumored to bang his muses, including the courtesan, a.k.a. high-class hooker, Kitty Fisher, “who visited his house for more sittings than were strictly necessary” (18th-century speak for, “they had lots of hot sex all over his studio”). Of course, this can’t be proven, but we choose to assume the dirtiest.

Even so, Reynolds never married, claiming, “Every woman whom he had liked had grown indifferent to him.”  His sister and live-in housekeeper had a different theory about his perennial bachelorhood, calling him “a gloomy tyrant.”  Reynolds’ reputed ugliness may not have helped.  His lip was disfigured after a fall from a horse, and his skin was scarred by smallpox.  He was also partially deaf and eventually went blind in one eye.  Joshua Reynolds: Lucky in art, unlucky in love, life, and looks.

 

Featured Content

Here is what Wikipedia says about Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an English painter, specialising in portraits. John Russell said he was one of the major European painters of the 18th century. He promoted the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was a founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts, and was knighted by George III in 1769. In 2018, the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, UK was celebrated, of which Sir Joshua Reynolds was the first president.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Joshua Reynolds.