Gainsborough & Reynolds: contrasts in royal patronage

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Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 1994 - Art - 96 pages
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About the author (1994)

Sir Joshua Reynolds was the most influential and important painter of Georgian England, the first president of the Royal Academy, and, so to speak, the greatest establishment figure in English art. Born into a cultured family (unlike most artists of his day), he was a learned man, in touch with the leading literary figures of the time, Samuel Johnson (see Vol. 1) among them. He received thorough training in Italy (1750--52), where he studied the works of Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian. He thus became a confirmed neoclassicist, but some influences from the baroque style of Rubens are also discernible. His Discourses, held at the Royal Academy and widely disseminated in print, are the most important documents of eighteenth-century classicism in art and exercised great influence. As a painter, Reynolds excelled in portraiture. Many members of the high aristocracy of his time were painted by him in the grand manner, which he combined with subtlety and sensitivity. His technique was often faulty, and many of his pictures have cracked or lost much of their color. He was extraordinarily prolific until blindness struck him in his last year.

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