Joshua Reynolds
- Favourite Briton.

Born in Plympton, Devon
Born on 16th of July 1723
Died on 23rd of February 1792

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Joshua Reynolds was born July 16 1723 in Plympton, Devon. From his early years he displayed his painterly ambitions and his family – his father a clergyman and schoolteacher - accordingly arranged for him to study in London. Here he very quickly learned enough to set up on his own account as a portrait painter. For his first sitters Reynolds astutely sought out Royal Navy officers who, with their aristocratic connections, might further his career. His strategy worked and enabled him to study in Italy were he memorised the styles of the Renaissance masters in order to incorporate them into his portraiture, though he returned with his hearing permanently damaged by illness.

On returning to London in 1757 Reynolds put his plan into action and met with immediate success. As his fortunes improved so did his social standing and by 1760 Reynolds could afford a splendid town house in Leicester Fields (later Leicester Square). Here he exhibited his paintings and attracted the cream of London society. In 1764 Reynolds established the Literary Club with his friend and confidant Samuel Johnson. The club could boast such luminaries as Edmund Burke, Goldsmith, Sheridan and the actor David Garrick, another clever method of expanding the social circle in which Reynolds operated.

With the founding of the Royal Academy in 1768 Reynolds was the natural choice for President. He took his duties seriously and combined promoting the Academy with teaching. His fifteen “Discourses” definitively express the ideals and practise of classical art.

Reynolds, who became painter to the king in 1784, was knighted in 1769 in recognition of his contribution to elevating the fine arts in Britain. Sir Joshua Reynolds died in London February 23 1792, the last three years of his life unproductive as his sight faded. Over his lifetime he completed some two thousand portraits although unfortunately his use of unstable pigments has caused many of his paintings to fade.

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