Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Thomas Lawrence

Henry and I went to the exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased, particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy. Perhaps, however, I may find her in the great exhibition, which we shall go to if we have time. I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds's paintings, which is now showing in Pall Mall, and which we are also to visit. Mrs. Bingley's is exactly herself -- size, shaped face, features, and sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs. D. will be in yellow. Jane Austen to Cassandra Sloane St., Monday, May 24, 1813

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds was the most important and influential of 18th century English painters, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy. George III appreciated his merits and knighted him in 1769. Reynolds was born in Plympton St Maurice, Devon, on 16 July 1723, and apprenticed in 1740 to the fashionable portrait painter Thomas Hudson, with whom he remained until 1743. From 1749 to 1752, he spent over two years in Italy, mainly in Rome, where he studied the Old Masters and acquired a taste for the "Grand Style". From 1753 on, he lived and worked in London. He became a close friend of Dr Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, Henry Thrale, David Garrick and fellow artist Angelica Kauffmann. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of Arts: he encouraged that society's interest in contemporary art and, with Gainsborough, established the Royal Academy as a spin-out organisation.

"George Clive and his family with an Indian maid", painted 1765

Many of his works show children in various states of un-dress. It is unlikely that such an interest would escape criticism in today's world, regardless of artistic merit. With his rival Thomas Gainsborough, he was the dominant English portraitist of the second half of the 18th century. Reynolds painted in more of an idealized fashion than his rival. It is said that in his long life he painted as many as three thousand portraits. Reynolds was a brilliant academic. His lectures (Discourses) on art, delivered at the Royal Academy between 1769 and 1790, are remembered for their sensitivity and perception. In one of these lectures he was of the opinion that "invention, strictly speaking, is little more than a new combination of those images which have been previously gathered and deposited in the memory." In 1789 he lost the sight of his left eye, and on 23 February 1792 he died in his house in Leicester Fields, London. He was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral.

Sir Thomas Lawrence

Sir Thomas Lawrence, was a notable English painter, mostly of portraits. He was born in Bristol. His father was an innkeeper, first at Bristol and afterwards at Devizes, and at the age of six Thomas was already being shown off to the guests of the Black Boar as an infant prodigy who could sketch their likenesses and declaim speeches from Milton. In 1779 the elder Lawrence had to leave Devizes, having failed in business and Thomas's precocious talent began to be the main source of the family's income; he had gained a reputation along the Bath road. His debut as a crayon portrait painter was made at Oxford, where he was well patronized, and in 1782 the family settled in Bath, where the young artist soon found himself fully employed in taking crayon likenesses of fashionable people at a guinea or a guinea and a half a head. In 1784 he gained the prize and silver-gilt palette of the Society of Arts for a crayon drawing after Raphael's "Transfiguration," and presently beginning to paint in oil. Abandoning the idea of going on the stage which he had briefly entertained, Lawrence came to London in 1787, was kindly received by Sir Joshua Reynolds , and became a student at the Royal Academy. He began to exhibit almost immediately, and his reputation increased so rapidly that he became an associate of the Academy in 1791. The death of Sir Joshua in 1792 opened the way to further successes. Lawrence was at once appointed painter to the Dilettanti Society, and principal painter to King George III in lieu of Reynolds. In 1794 he was a Royal Academician, and he became the fashionable portrait painter of the age, his sitters including England's most notable people, and ultimately most of the crowned heads of Europe. Caroline of Brunswick was one of his favourite subjects, and is reputed to have been his lover for a time. In 1815 he was knighted; in 1818 he went to Aachen to paint the sovereigns and diplomats gathered there for the third congress, and visited Vienna and Rome, everywhere receiving flattering marks of distinction from princes, due as much to his courtly manners as to his merits as an artist. After eighteen months he returned to England, and on the very day of his arrival was chosen president of the Academy in room of Benjamin West, who had died a few days before. He held the office from 1820 to his death. He was never married. Sir Thomas Lawrence had all the qualities of personal manner and artistic style necessary to make a fashionable painter, and among English portrait painters he takes a high place, though not as high as that given to him in his lifetime. His more ambitious works, in the classical style, such as his once celebrated "Satan," are practically forgotten. The best display of Lawrence's work is in the Waterloo Gallery of Windsor, a collection of much historical interest. "Master Lambton," painted for Lord Durham at the price of 600 guineas, is regarded as one of his best portraits, and a fine head in the National Gallery, London, shows his power to advantage. From Wikipedia. The Online Encyclopedia.

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