Sir Joshua Reynolds

English (1723 - 1792)
Sir Joshua Reynolds The Ladies Waldegrave 1780


Born 1723
Died 1792
Nationality English
Birth place Plympton
Death place London

Reynolds was born in Plympton, Devon, the son of a headmaster. He was apprenticed to the London portrait painter, Thomas Hudson, in 1740. In 1749 he went to Italy, spending two years in Rome. On his return, in 1753, he set up a studio in London. Reynolds developed a portrait style which attempted to marry the sitter's need for a fashionable likeness with the complexity of traditional religious and historical painting. His compositions are usually interesting but his technique was often unsound, and many of his pictures have deteriorated badly. He was a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts and its first president, a position of huge influence which Reynolds used to set the future course of British art.

Glossary terms

  • Oil paint is a mixture of pigment particles suspended in a drying oil. When exposed to air, it slowly dries, forming a tough, coloured film. The slow drying property of the paint is advantageous to artists as it allows them to work up a painting gradually, making corrections as they go. Oil paint can also be thinned and blended with each other to create subtle variations of colour, light and shadow.