Joshua Reynolds

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Reynolds, Joshua


Born July 16, 1723, in Plympton, Devonshire; died Feb. 23, 1792, in London. English painter.

Reynolds studied in London with T. Hudson from 1740 to 1743. He worked in Devonshire and London. From 1749 to 1752 he traveled in Europe, studying the works of Rembrandt, Rubens, and the 16th-century Venetian masters. Reynolds was a founder of the London Royal Academy of Arts; he served as the academy’s first president from 1768 to 1790.

Creatively reinterpreting the traditions of formal baroque portraiture and combining the grandeur of the overall concept with natural characterization, Reynolds sought to represent the ideal personality within the proper sociohistorical framework. He used dynamic composition, fluid brushstroke, and lush colors to achieve an effect of naturalness (as seen in Jane, Countess Harrington, 1777–79, Huntington Art Gallery, San Marino, Calif.).

Many of Reynold’s portraits were in the form of allegorical scenes—for example, Garrick Between Comedy and Tragedy (c. 1760–61, Lord Rothschild Collection, Cambridge). The artist’s self-portraits and portraits of his friends (for example, Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1772, Tate Gallery, London) are noted for their psychological expressiveness. His portraits of friends were deliberately simple in execution.

Reynold’s art theory, dominated by conventional classicist views, was more conservative than his art.


Graves, A., and W. Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, vols. London, 1899–1901.
Hudson, D. Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Personal Study. London, 1958.
Waterhouse, E. K. Reynolds. London, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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