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  •   Sir Joshua  Reynolds 

    Birth Year : 1723
    Death Year : 1793
    Country : United Kingdom

    Sir Joshua Reynolds was born in Devonshire, the son of a Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. His father apprenticed him to a portrait painter, and by the time he was twenty Reynolds was painting portraits in Plymouth Dock. Reynolds spent the years 1749 to 1752 in Italy, studying the Italian masters and earning a living by painting portraits of English visitors. He returned to London via Paris and settled there where his success was soon remarkable. Reynolds was extremely ambitious personally and sought social advancement by currying the favor of his noble and wealthy sitters. He was eminently successful in his advancement, and when the Royal Academy was founded in 1768 he became its first president and was knighted by George III. The collection of speeches he gave at the Academy's annual banquets, later published as Discourses, is an important statement of eighteenth-century art, based on seventeenth-century precepts. The Discourses indicate that Reynolds believed in set rules of taste, in the importance of authority, and in the necessity for an artist to study the recognized masterpieces of art during his formative years. At the same time, the speeches constantly urge the selection of dignified and high-minded subjects, so that artists might see their works accorded the reception they deserved and the artists themselves might be admitted to the social level of writers and poets. While he was thus struggling with social snobbery, the demands of the age in which he lived forced Reynolds to devote himself principally to painting portraits of the rich, the influential, and the famous. His efforts at highmindedness show in touches of allegory, in psychological comprehension that goes beyond the moment of painting the sitter and in his efforts to indicate constant human values. His works, influenced by the Venetian and Flemish Baroque painters, are harmoniously composed often strikingly lit, completely unified as to idea, and never sentimental or merely pretty. His efforts to raise the standing of art and artists were rewarded by an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University, while his teaching of the importance of historical painting greatly influenced Benjamin West, one of the early Neoclassicists.

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