Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reynolds, Joshua
REYNOLDS, Sir JOSHUA (1723–1792), portrait-painter, was born at Plympton-Earl's, Devonshire, on 16 July 1723, the seventh child of the Rev. Samuel Reynolds, master of the grammar school there, and Theophila, his wife. His christian name is wrongly entered as Joseph in the parish register. On both sides the family was clerical and scholarly. His father's father was the Rev. John Reynolds (the son of Joshua Reynolds), who was prebendary of Exeter, and died in 1692, and his mother's father was Matthew Potter, the curate and chaplain of her grandfather, the Rev. Thomas Baker, the vicar of Bishops-Nympton, near South Molton, Devonshire, and a distinguished mathematician [see Baker, Thomas, 1625?–1689]. Samuel's brother Joshua (the uncle and godfather of Sir Joshua) was elected fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1701, and his half-brother, John (1671–1758), was a fellow of King's College, Cambridge, a fellow of Eton, and headmaster of Exeter school. William Reynolds, the son of this John and the first cousin of Sir Joshua, was a fellow of Exeter College from 1723 to 1741, and succeeded his father as schoolmaster (cf. William Cotton, Account of Plympton, 1859, pp. 34 sq.).
The father, Samuel Reynolds (1681–1746), who graduated B.A. from Corpus Christi College in 1702, was elected fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1705, and was noted for his guileless disposition and ignorance of the world (cf. Fowler, Hist. of Corpus Christi, p. 272). Being also very absent-minded, he was likened by his friends to Parson Adams in Fielding's novel of ‘Joseph Andrews.’ There is a portrait of him, painted by his son, in the Cottonian Library of Plymouth. His salary and emoluments as master of Plympton grammar school were 120l. a year and a house, and he had eleven (or twelve) children, six of whom were living at his death in 1746. Three only of these, his daughters—Mary [see Palmer, Mrs. Mary], Elizabeth (born 1721), and Frances (born 1729)—were connected with the after life of his son Joshua.
Samuel Reynolds was not an energetic master (the scholars of the grammar school at Plympton are said to have dwindled to one during his time), but there is no reason to suppose that Joshua's education was neglected by his father, as Allan Cunningham suggests. He seems to have been a somewhat idle and inattentive boy, as one of his Latin exercises exists on which he has drawn a pen-and-ink sketch, and his father has written ‘This is drawn by Joshua in school out of pure idleness.’ At all events, it was at his father's school that he received what education he had, and this certainly included some knowledge of Latin. But if he showed little disposition for ordinary studies, he mastered the principles of perspective from the ‘Jesuit's Treatise,’ and produced a drawing of the school-house which astonished his father. He also drew some portraits of his friends and relatives; and if his fondness for art was not, as Dr. Johnson said, caused by Richardson's ‘Treatise on Painting’ (see Johnson, Life of Cowley), it was greatly stimulated by a perusal of that work. He copied some prints belonging to his father, especially those in Dryden's edition of ‘Plutarch's Lives,’ and Jacob Cats's ‘Book of Emblems.’ From the latter he appears to have derived suggestions for some of his future pictures, as the ‘Cauldron Scene in Macbeth’ in Boydell's ‘Shakespeare Gallery,’ and the portrait of Kitty Fisher as Cleopatra dissolving the pearl. His first essay in oil-painting was a portrait (still preserved) of the Rev. Thomas Smart, tutor in the family of Richard (afterwards first Lord) Edgcumbe, done about the age of twelve in a boat-house at Cremyll Beach with common shipwright's paint on a bit of sail. In 1740, after some indecision as to whether he should be a painter or an apothecary (Reynolds himself said he would rather be an apothecary than an ordinary painter), he was apprenticed to Thomas Hudson [q. v.], the portrait-painter, for four years, with a premium of 120l., of which half was found by his father, and half advanced by his eldest sister, Mary, the wife of John Palmer, attorney, of Torrington. While with Hudson in London he saw Pope in an auction-room, and managed to shake hands with him. He studied hard, and copied Guercino's drawings, but he quarrelled with his master and returned to Plymouth in 1743. He was back in London in 1744, and on good terms with Hudson, having meanwhile painted some twenty portraits, including Philip Vanbrugh, the commissioner of the dockyard, and several of the family of Mr. Kendal of Pelyn. After his father's death, on Christmas day 1746, he lived till 1749 with two unmarried sisters at Plymouth Dock, and improved his style by the study of the portraits of William Gandy [q. v.] To these years belong portraits of Richard Eliot of Port Eliot (father of the first Lord Eliot) and his wife; of Elizabeth, Eliot's sister, wife of Charles Cocks (afterwards Lord Somers); of the Hon. John Hamilton; Mrs. Field; Commodore Edgcumbe; Mr. Craunch (an old friend of his father's, much interested in his future) and his wife; Captain Chaundy, R.N., and his wife; Councillor Bury and his wife; Alderman Facy; and Miss Elizabeth Chudleigh (afterwards Duchess of Kingston). Other pictures of this period are a portrait group (Reynolds's first), comprising Mr. and Mrs. Richard Eliot and their family, with Mrs. Goldsworthy and Captain the Hon. John Hamilton (d. 1755) [q. v.], a study of a boy reading in a reflected light (signed and dated 1747), which he kept till his death, and two Rembrantesque portraits of himself, one with long hair and dark cloak—still in the possession of the Gwatkin family—and the other (now in the National Portrait Gallery), with palette and maulstick in the right hand, and shading his eyes with his left. The palette has a handle, as all his palettes had. A view of Plymouth and its neighbourhood from Catdown Hill (very carefully executed) is at Port Eliot, as well as all the portraits of the Eliot family already mentioned, except that of Lady Somers, which is at Eastnor Castle.
In 1749 Commodore Keppel [see Keppel, Augustus, Viscount Keppel], in the command of the Centurion, put into Plymouth for repairs, met Reynolds at Lord Edgcumbe's [see Edgcumbe, George, first Earl of Mount-Edgcumbe], and offered him a passage. They sailed for Lisbon on 11 May, and visited Cadiz, Tetuan, Gibraltar, Algiers, and Minorca, where Reynolds painted almost all the officers of the garrison at Port Mahon. Keppel treated him as an intimate friend, allowed him the use of his cabin and his books, and took him on shore with him whenever he could, so that, as Reynolds says in a letter to Lord Edgcumbe, ‘I not only had the opportunity of seeing a great deal, but saw it with all the advantages as if I had travelled as his equal.’ In the same letter (the only one written during his absence which remains, although he is supposed to have corresponded with his sisters) he suggests that Lord Edgcumbe should choose a picture, the larger the better, for him to copy and present to his lordship. At Minorca, his horse fell down a precipice with him, causing the injury to his lip which is to be seen in all subsequent portraits. On recovery he went to Leghorn, Florence, and Rome, where he spent two years ‘with measureless content,’ his sisters, Mrs. Palmer (Mary) and Mrs. Johnson (Elizabeth), having advanced him money for his expenses. At Rome he made copies from Titian, Rembrandt, Guido, Raphael, and other masters, but not from Michael Angelo, whom he admired more than all. He was disappointed at first with Raphael, but the disappointment humiliated him as due to his own ignorance. He made some caricatures, including a composition taken from Raphael's ‘School of Athens,’ into which he introduced most of the English gentlemen then in Rome. His notebooks of this period contain some sketches of old masters, which he afterwards employed for his own pictures. Two of these books are in the British Museum, and contain the sketches which suggested ‘Mrs. Sheridan as St. Cecilia’ and ‘Mrs. Crewe as St. Geneviève.’ Two others are in the Soane Museum, and another was in the possession of Frederick Locker-Lampson, the author of ‘London Lyrics.’ His studies appear to have been directed to penetrate the secrets of the old masters as to composition, relief, and especially the management of lights. He took few notes with regard to sentiment, expression, or colour. He was much attracted by what was florid and facile, and, following the fashion of the day, he paid much more attention to the works of the eclectics, like Domenichino, Baroccio, and Guercino, than a modern student would; and he greatly admired those of Bernini the sculptor. Among the English painters at Rome were John Astley (1730?–1787) [q. v.], Nathaniel Hone [q. v.], and Richard Wilson [q. v.], and he met there his future friends and patrons, Lord Charlemont, Sir W. Lowther, Lord Downe, and Lord Bruce. He went to Naples, and finally left Rome for Florence on 3 May 1752, visiting Fuligno, Perugia, Assisi, and Arezzo. At Florence he painted Joseph Wilton [q. v.], the sculptor. His Florentine journal contains no reference to any painter before Raphael except Masaccio, and shows that he had not yet made up his mind as to the relative merits of Michael Angelo and Raphael, and was inclined to rate Giovanni di Bologna, as a sculptor, as high as the former. In July he left Florence on his return journey, visiting Bologna, Modena, Reggio, Parma, Mantua, Ferrara, and Venice, where he stayed from 24 July to 16 Aug., and took careful notes of many pictures. Thence he went to Padua, Brescia, Bergamo, and Milan, with his first pupil and protégé, Giuseppe Marchi [q. v.], and spent a month at Paris, where he painted M. Gauthier and Mrs. Chambers, the wife of the architect (afterwards Sir William Chambers [q. v.]).
Reynolds arrived in London on 16 Oct. 1752, greatly developed as a man and an artist, but with two permanent physical defects, the scar on his lip from the accident at Minorca, and deafness contracted from the cold of the Vatican while copying Raphael. After three months in Devonshire, where he painted Dr. John Mudge [q. v.] and a young lady (for five guineas apiece), he came to London, and took apartments in Sir James Thornhill's old house, 104 St. Martin's Lane, where he was joined by his youngest sister, Frances, who kept his house for many years. These apartments were soon exchanged for a house in Great Newport Street (No. 5), where he remained till 1760. His first portrait after his arrival in London was one of Marchi in a turban, which belongs to the Royal Academy. Although, on account of the novelty of his style, he met with some opposition, his art was so evidently superior to that of Hudson, Ramsay, Hone, and other followers of Kneller, that, with the aid of Lord Edgcumbe, who persuaded many of the aristocracy to sit to him, and probably of the Keppels and others of his friends, he soon put all rivals at a distance. One of his most serious competitors was Liotard, the Swiss pastellist and miniature-painter, who came to London in 1753 and stayed two years. The well-known full-length portrait of Captain Keppel in an attitude of command on the seashore, with a stormy background, is said to have done most to establish his reputation. The motive was suggested by the exertions of Keppel in saving the crew of his ship, the Maidstone, after her wreck in 1747; and the attitude of the figure, although taken from a statue, is full of living grace and energy. His success was so great that the number of his sitters increased to 120 in 1755, to 150 in 1758, and to 156 (his busiest year) in 1759. He raised his prices to fifteen guineas for a head, thirty for a half-length, and sixty for a full-length; and in 1759 to twenty for a head and the rest in proportion. In this period, 1753–60, he painted three members of the royal family (the Duke of Cumberland and Prince Edward in 1758, and the Prince of Wales, afterwards George III, in 1759); at least twelve dukes, beginning with the Duke of Grafton in 1755, and several of their duchesses, with very many other peers and persons of wealth and fashion, including several belonging to the Devonshire families, like the Bastards, Molesworths, Bullers, and Mrs. Horneck. It was in these years also that he painted both the lovely Misses Gunning (Lady Coventry and the Duchess of Hamilton, afterwards Duchess of Argyll), the famous (but now, alas! much restored) ‘Mrs. Pelham feeding Chickens,’ Horace Walpole (one of his greatest admirers and most capricious critics), Sterne, Foote, Giardini (the violinist), and his first portrait of Dr. Johnson (whom he painted five times), Garrick, the beautiful Maria, countess of Waldegrave (both of whom he painted seven times), and the two famous courtesans, Kitty Fisher and Nelly O'Brien. Reynolds's art during this period is represented in the National Gallery by the Lord Ligonier on horse-back, Captain Orme standing beside his horse, and the exquisite portrait of Anne, countess of Albemarle (mother of his friend Keppel).
To keep pace with the demands for his portraits, Reynolds employed Peter Toms [q. v.] as an assistant, in addition to Marchi, and he also received Thomas Beach and Hugh Barron as pupils, to be followed hereafter by Powell, Doughty, and others, who no doubt were also employed upon his pictures. ‘No man,’ he said, ‘ever made a fortune with his own hands.’ He now began to make a good deal of money, and in a few years' time, when he raised his prices, his income reached five or six thousand a year; but, instead of saving, he spent his money in purchasing the finest pictures he could get, which he regarded as the best kind of wealth. Meanwhile his success in society was equal to that in his profession. His manner and conversation were so agreeable that many sitters of all ranks became his friends; and to the Keppels, the Edgcumbes, and other Devonshire families of position were soon added many more of rank and fashion, at whose houses he was a welcome guest and who visited him in return. Then his leisure was much taken up with dinners, evening assemblies, card-parties, and suppers, almost daily notes of which are to be found in his pocket-books. He had also commenced his connection with some of those eminent men who formed the inner intellectual circle of his companions in life—with Garrick, at least, and Goldsmith, and Johnson, with whom he became acquainted about 1753. The doctor, who then lived in Gough Square, was a constant visitor in Great Newport Street, for he had a great liking and esteem for Miss Reynolds, whom he called his ‘dearest dear,’ as well as for her brother; and among other attractions of the house was tea, which was served three times a day. John Wilkes, whom he had known since his youth, was also a special friend. Though he had more than an ordinary acquaintanceship with many artists—with Wilton, Hayman, Chambers, Cotes, Gilbert Stuart, and more especially with Hudson, Allan Ramsay (whom he loved, but did not think highly of as a painter), Benjamin West, and James (Athenian) Stuart—he does not seem to have greatly cultivated the private society of his professional brethren. There was little sympathy between Hogarth and Reynolds, either in character or in opinions upon art, and neither of these two great artists had a right appreciation of the other's powers. Nor did Reynolds fraternise with Wilson, nor with Gainsborough, though this was not his fault. There are, however, records of visits to the Artists' Club at Slaughter's coffee-house, and he was much concerned in the promotion of those schemes for the establishment of an academy of arts which preceded the foundation of the Royal Academy. He is thought by Charles Robert Leslie [q. v.] to have composed the paper in which one such scheme was laid before the Dilettanti Society in 1755. It was while he was still living in Great Newport Street that he first showed his capacity as a thinker and writer on art by three papers contributed to the ‘Idler’ (see Nos. 76, 79, 82). The first was on ‘Connoisseurship,’ the second on ‘Imitation of Nature,’ and the third on ‘Beauty,’ and they all contained ideas which were afterwards expanded in his presidential discourses. Northcote heard Reynolds say that Johnson required these papers in an emergency, and that Reynolds sat up the whole night to complete them, producing thereby vertigo. In the same year (1759) he painted (or commenced) his first picture of ‘Venus,’ which was purchased by Lord Coventry. A singular instance of his kindness of heart also belongs to this time. He painted and sent to Dr. Mudge a portrait of his son, who was prevented by illness from going home on his birthday. The lad is represented as peeping, like an unexpected guest, from behind a curtain (cf. Flint, Mudge Memoirs).
In 1760 Reynolds removed from Great Newport Street to the house he had bought on the west side of Leicester Fields (No. 47), now called Leicester Square, where he lived till his death. He added to it a gallery and painting-rooms for himself and his assistants, his own being octagonal, about twenty feet long and sixteen broad, with a small window over nine feet from the floor. The father of George Morland [q. v.] had lived there before, and the premises are now occupied by Puttick & Simpson, the book auctioneers. He gave 1,650l. for the house, and spent 1,500l. more in additions, which swallowed up nearly all his savings. He opened his new house with a ball, and set up a magnificent chariot (said to have been an old sheriff's carriage), richly carved and gilded, and adorned with panels painted by Charles Catton the elder [q. v.], representing the four seasons. This showy equipage, attended by servants in silver-laced liveries, he seldom used himself, but he bade his sister go out with it as often as possible, much to her annoyance, and allowed his coachman to show it. It acted, probably, as a valuable advertisement; but the device was scarcely worthy of a character usually so modest and unassuming. In this year (1760) was opened the first public exhibition in London by British artists of their own works. It was held in the large room of the Society of Arts, in the Strand, and Reynolds sent to it four portraits, including those of Elizabeth, duchess of Hamilton, and Lady Elizabeth Keppel. Next year, owing to a division among the artists, there were two exhibitions—one at the Society of Arts by the body which was afterwards enrolled as the Free Society of Artists; the other at Spring Gardens by the body afterwards the Incorporated Society of Artists. Reynolds joined the latter, and to its exhibition in 1761, remarkable for its catalogue, with Hogarth's illustrations, sent the portraits of Lord Ligonier and Captain Orme (already mentioned), as well as portraits of Lady Waldegrave (in a turban), the Duke of Beaufort in his college robes, and that matchless one of Laurence Sterne, with his wig a little awry above the cunning face, brimming with subtle intellect and sly humour. Sterne, in a letter to a friend, says that Reynolds made him a present of his portrait, adding, ‘That man's way of thinking and manners are at least equal to his pencil.’ Tom Taylor, in notes to Leslie and his ‘Life and Times of Sir Joshua Reynolds,’ suggests that Sterne was romancing, and says that this portrait was painted for the Earl of Ossory.
The marriage of the young king, George III (22 Sept. 1761), was the occasion of many portraits. Among others, Reynolds painted three of the most beautiful bridesmaids: Lady Elizabeth Keppel (decorating a statue of Hymen, with the assistance of a negress), Lady Caroline Russell (afterwards Duchess of Marlborough, with a spaniel), and Lady Sarah Lennox [see Lennox, Charles, second Duke of Richmond]. The last-named lady leans from the windows in the Holland House picture (commenced this year), taking a dove from Lady Susan Strangways, while their young cousin, Charles James Fox, with a playbill in his hand, seems to invite Lady Susan to enter the house. Another interesting group finished this year was that of Horace Walpole, with Gilly Williams and George Selwyn.
To the Spring Gardens exhibition of 1762, for which Johnson wrote the preface to the catalogue, Reynolds sent the portrait of Lady Elizabeth Keppel just mentioned, one of the Countess of Waldegrave and her child (as Dido embracing Cupid), and the well-known ‘Garrick between Tragedy and Comedy,’ one of Reynolds's happiest combinations of humour and imagination. In the autumn he spent some weeks in Devonshire, in company of Dr. Johnson, visiting, on the road to Plymouth, James Harris (author of ‘Hermes’) at Salisbury, Wilton (Lord Pembroke's), Longford Castle (Lord Folkestone's), Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Palmer (Reynolds's brothers-in-law) at Torrington. At Plymouth they stayed with Dr. Mudge, and spent their time in a round of excursions and hospitalities with Reynolds's old friends, including the Edgcumbes of Mount-Edgcumbe and the Parkers of Saltram.
The pocket-book for 1764 (that for 1763 is missing) shows that Reynolds's painting-room was still politically neutral ground. Reynolds was no partisan, except for his friends, but his early patrons had belonged to whig families, and his professional connection naturally grew upon that side, and ultimately led to his being identified with it as a painter. But together with members of the opposition, we find among his sitters for 1764 George Grenville (he had painted Lord Bute the previous year), Lord Granby, Lord Shelburne—all members of the government—with Lady Mary Coke and Lady Pembroke, who belonged to the court party. Among other evidences of the painter's impartiality we find the names of the archbishops of York and Canterbury beside those of Nelly O'Brien and Kitty Fisher, the most frequent of his sitters (probably not always for their portraits) during the last three years. We find also those of Miss Horneck (Goldsmith's ‘Little Comedy’), afterwards Mrs. Bunbury (he painted her and her sister, the ‘Jessamy bride,’ next year), and Mrs. Abington (in a cardinal), the first of five pictures of this sprightly actress. He had now doubled his prices to one hundred and fifty guineas for a whole-length, seventy for a half-length, &c. To the exhibition of this year he contributed a whole-length of Lady Sarah Bunbury and a three-quarter of the Countess of Waldegrave, now a widow.
This was the year (1764) in which Reynolds founded the most celebrated of all the many clubs to which he belonged. He founded it, he said, to give Dr. Johnson unlimited opportunities of talking. It was soon called the Literary Club, a name not given to it by its members. The original members of this club (still existing as The Club) were Reynolds, Johnson, Burke, Dr. Nugent (Burke's father-in-law), Topham Beauclerk, Bennet Langton, Dr. Goldsmith, Anthony Chamier, and Sir John Hawkins, that ‘most unclubbable man,’ as Dr. Johnson called him. The club met and supped every Monday evening at the Turk's Head in Gerrard Street till 1775, when it was changed to a dinner club, and met only once a fortnight during the session of parliament. Reynolds had a dangerous but short illness this year, which brought a very affectionate letter from Johnson: ‘If I should lose you,’ he says, ‘I should lose almost the only man whom I call a friend.’
In 1765 the Society of Artists was incorporated by royal charter. Reynolds refused to be one of its directors, but his name is attached to the roll declaration of the society of the next year. To the exhibition of 1765 he sent a full-length of Lady Sarah Bunbury (sacrificing to the Graces) and another portrait, and to that of 1766 the affected ‘Mrs. Hale as Euphrosyne,’ his second portrait of the Marquis of Granby (a full-length, with a horse), one of Sir Geoffrey Amherst (in armour), and another of James Paine, the architect, and his son. In this year his pocket-book has many entries of the name of Angelica Kauffmann [q. v.], the only woman with whom there is reason to suppose that he was ever seriously in love. She is sometimes entered as Miss Angel, and once the word ‘fiori’ is set against her name. She sat to Reynolds (in 1766, 1769, and 1777), and Reynolds sat to her (in 1769), and, according to J. T. Smith (see Nollekens and his Times), she disclosed to her visitors that she was ‘dying for Sir Joshua.’ Any declaration on Sir Joshua's part was postponed by her first unfortunate marriage in 1767, and after her separation next year, though they saw much of each other and their names were frequently associated in popular gossip, nothing came of it. Sir Joshua remained her constant admirer and friend through life. In 1766 Reynolds had, however, much to think about and many persons to paint, besides Miss Angel. His friends were in power, and in this year he painted Lord Rockingham, Lord Albemarle, Sir Charles Saunders, the Dukes of Portland and Devonshire, Lord Hardwicke, General Conway, and Burke, all members of the first Rockingham ministry. Among his sitters were also Warren Hastings and Colonel Barré, the two Misses Horneck, Dr. Zachariah Mudge, and Goldsmith. Reynolds also painted the unfortunate Princess Caroline Matilda (shortly to marry the king of Denmark), of whom he told Northcote that he could not make a good picture, as she was in tears all the time she was sitting. He did not, however, exhibit in 1767, and in 1768 he concluded his contributions to the Society of Artists exhibitions with the celebrated portrait of Miss Jessie Cholmondeley (daughter of his lively friend, Mrs. Cholmondeley, sister of Peg Woffington), carrying a dog over a brook. He painted her mother three times, and during these years was a frequent guest of hers, as well as of Mrs. Clive (whom he never painted) and the Thrales. In 1767 and 1768 his pocket-books contain comparatively few new names, but he painted a good many of his old friends over again, including Mr. Parker of Saltram (afterwards Lord Boringdon), Dr. Armstrong, Burke, Foote, and Johnson. In the autumn of 1768 (9 Sept. to 23 Oct.) he made a trip to Paris with Richard Burke, the Dick of Goldsmith's ‘Retaliation,’ and on each of the two days following his return he dined with Goldsmith, with whom his engagements were now very frequent. During his absence the successful scheme for the establishment of the Royal Academy had made great progress, and it was carried into effect before the end of the year (1768). Reynolds held aloof from the internal dissensions which ended in the disruption of the Society of Artists, and was not consulted respecting the formation of the academy, in which the king took the first step by signifying to West that he would gladly patronise such an association. West, Moser, Cotes, and Chambers (who drafted the plan) forthwith petitioned the king, who took a great personal interest in the scheme and drew up several of the laws with his own hand. But, though not made privy to these proceedings, Reynolds was from the first selected as president, with the consent of the king. This is the more remarkable testimony to Reynolds's position in his profession, as he was not in high favour at court, and George III did not care for his pictures. A meeting of thirty artists named by the king was held at Wilton's house on 9 Dec., at which the laws were accepted, and the officers declared. Reynolds refused at first to attend this meeting, and was persuaded with difficulty by West to do so, arriving just in time to prevent its breaking up abortively. The king's assent was given to the selection on the next day, and the first meeting of the academy was held on the 14th. On the 18th (Sunday) Reynolds, as president, formally submitted the list of officers, council, visitors, and professors, which was approved under the sign-manual. Reynolds immediately took the most active part in organising the academy and its schools, and lost no time in preparing his first discourse, which was delivered on 2 Jan. 1769, and was mainly concerned with the value of academies and the right direction of study. It was badly delivered in a husky voice, and was followed by a dinner at the St. Albans tavern, at which Reynolds presided. The annual academy dinner, with its carefully chosen list of eminent guests, was also founded by Reynolds, and it was he who suggested the appointment of honorary officers, not artists. Among the first of these were Dr. Johnson, professor of ancient literature, and Dr. Goldsmith of ancient history; and other friends of Reynolds like Boswell and Bennet Langton, both of whom were also members of the Literary Club, were afterwards added to the list. Reynolds was knighted on 21 April, and the first exhibition of the Royal Academy was opened on 26 April. He sent four pictures to it, including the beautiful Miss Morris as ‘Hope nursing Love,’ Mrs. Bouverie, and Mrs. Crewe.
Sir Joshua's elevation did not increase the number of his sitters, who soon fell to about fifty or less in the year. He had no doubt by his enormous success and activity exhausted to some extent his ground as a portrait-painter, but the decline was partly due to the pressure of his academical duties. Whether from leisure or choice, he now devoted more of his time to pictures of imagination. Models, boys, beggars, old men, and children now became frequent in the lists of his sitters. A picture of ‘The Babes in the Wood’ was exhibited in 1770, and a study was made about this time from his old model, White, which was afterwards used for his once famous picture of ‘Ugolino,’ exhibited in 1773. This study, exhibited in 1771, was engraved under the title of ‘Resignation,’ and dedicated to Goldsmith, with some lines from the ‘Deserted Village,’ as a return compliment for the poet's exquisite dedication of that poem to Sir Joshua in the preceding year. The exhibition of 1771 also contained two fancy pictures, ‘Venus chiding Cupid for learning to cast Accounts,’ and ‘A Nymph and Bacchus.’ It was about this time that he painted his celebrated picture of Sir Joseph Banks, just returned from his voyage round the world with Captain Cook.
In one way or another, his life was now probably fuller of work than ever, and it also seems to have been fuller of pleasures. Besides the Literary Club at the Turk's Head, at which his attendance was constant, there was the Thursday Night Club (which met at the Star and Garter in Pall Mall, and was composed of men of wit and pleasure, like Topham Beauclerk and Lord March), where they drank hard and played high; and the Shilling Rubber Club, held at the Devil tavern, where he met Goldsmith and could indulge more cheaply his love of whist, which he played indifferently. There was also the Devonshire (to which he belonged now or soon after), and the Sunday dinners of the Dilettanti Society. He attended assemblies, balls, and masquerades at Almack's and the Opera House, at Mrs. Cornelys' at Carlisle House, Soho Square, and afterwards at the Pantheon (opened in 1772), and was also to be seen at the theatres, at Marylebone Gardens, at Ranelagh, and Vauxhall. To these gaieties must be added the frequent private dinners with his numerous friends, and those famous ones at his own house, where ‘peers, temporal and spiritual, statesmen, physicians, lawyers, actors, men of letters, painters and musicians’ met in concord, and where, according to Malone, though the wine and the dishes were excellent, ‘there seemed to be a tacit agreement among the guests that mind should predominate over body.’ A livelier account of these irregular and often improvised entertainments is given by John Courtenay, M.P. (see Preface to Sir James Macintosh's Poetical Review of Dr. Johnson's Character), who tells us that the table prepared for seven or eight was often made to accommodate twice the number; that there was a deficiency of knives, forks, plates, and glasses, and every one called as he wanted for bread, wine, or beer, and lustily, or there was little chance of being served; while amid the bustle Sir Joshua sat composed, always attentive to what was said, by help of his trumpet, never minding what was eaten or drunk, but leaving every one at liberty to scramble for himself. His dinner hour, which had been four o'clock in Great Newport Street, was now five. There was supper afterwards, but this Sir Joshua never took. He had now or shortly afterwards a villa at Richmond, close to the Star and Garter, where he often used to give dinners on Sunday in the summer, if he did not dine with one of his neighbouring friends, Owen Cambridge, George Colman, Mrs. Clive, or his old master, Hudson. In 1770 he spent a few days in York, perhaps with the poet Mason, and in September he paid a visit to Devonshire, where he appears to have taken his part in hunting and other field sports. He brought back with him Mary Theophila (Offy) Palmer (second daughter of his sister, Mrs. Mary Palmer [q. v.], lately widowed), then thirteen years old, who lived with him (except for eight months in 1773) till she married Robert Lovell Gwatkin in 1781. On his return he painted the king and queen. He had painted George III once when Prince of Wales, but never since his accession; and on the death of Shackleton in 1767, George III had appointed Allan Ramsay as court painter. It was no doubt on account of this neglect that Reynolds made it a condition of his acceptance of the presidentship of the academy that he should paint both king and queen. After this George III only once sat to him, and that was nine years afterwards, for a picture to be preserved by the academy itself, a purpose for which he could scarcely have chosen any other painter. The exhibition of 1771, besides the pictures already mentioned, contained a portrait of his niece, Theophila Palmer, reading ‘Clarissa,’ and the famous one of Mrs. Abington as Prue in ‘Love for Love.’ In this year James Northcote [q. v.], his favourite pupil and future biographer, came to live with Sir Joshua as pupil and assistant. He was now a frequent visitor at the Thrales', and began the fine series of portraits of eminent men which made the Streatham gallery famous. They included himself, Johnson, Goldsmith, Burke, Garrick, Chambers, Baretti, Dr. Burney, Arthur Murphy, Lord Sandys, and Lord Lyttelton.
Among the six pictures sent to the academy in 1772 were Mrs. Crewe as ‘St. Geneviève,’ Miss Meyer as ‘Hebe,’ Mrs. Quarrington as ‘St. Agnes,’ and Dr. Robertson, the historian. He was this year elected an alderman of Plympton. Next year (1773) was a notable one in many ways. The exhibition—besides the Sir Joseph Banks, Garrick and his wife, the Duchess of Cumberland, and other fine portraits, and a second ‘Nymph and Bacchus’ (the nymph being this time Mrs. Hartley, the actress), contained the ‘Ugolino’ and the ‘Strawberry Girl’—both regarded as his most successful pictures in their very different classes. The latter was one of the many fancy pictures in which he introduced the pretty face of Offy, this year joined by her elder sister, Mary Palmer, who, with the exception of three years, lived with her uncle till his death. In June he stayed with Thomas Fitzmaurice, the brother of Lord Shelburne, in the Isle of Wight, and saw the fleet reviewed by the king. In July he went to Oxford and received from the university the honorary degree of D.C.L. In September he was chosen mayor of Plymouth, and went there to take the oaths. On his return, meeting the king accidentally at Richmond, he told his majesty that the honour of being elected mayor of his native town gave him more pleasure than any other he had ever received in his life, but, recollecting himself, added immediately, ‘Except that which your Majesty was graciously pleased to confer on me.’ It was about this time that he proposed that abortive scheme for the decoration of St. Paul's Cathedral by the leading artists of the day which was supported by the king, the archbishop of Canterbury, the dean of St. Paul's, and the whole force of academicians, but defeated by the bigotry of one man—Dr. Terrick, bishop of London, who declared that as long as he lived ‘he would never suffer the doors of the Metropolitan Church to be opened for the introduction of Popery.’
To the exhibition of 1774 he sent thirteen pictures, including the very fine portrait of Baretti (for Mrs. Thrale), one of the little Princess Sophia, a vigorous ‘Infant Jupiter,’ and two large groups, now in the National Gallery: ‘The Graces decorating a terminal figure of Hymen’ (exhibited as ‘Three Ladies adorning a term of Hymen’), and ‘Lady Cockburn and her Children’ (engraved as ‘Cornelia and her Children’). ‘The Graces’ were the three daughters of Sir William Montgomery, Marchioness Townsend, the Hon. Mrs. Gardiner, and the Hon. Mrs. Blessington. The former picture he scarcely surpassed in elegance, or the latter in splendour of colour. But the work which attracted most attention was the portrait of Dr. Beattie, with his ‘Essay on Truth’ in his hand, and an angel driving away figures of Sophistry, Scepticism, and Folly. This picture roused the wrath of Goldsmith, from the likeness of Sophistry to Voltaire. ‘How could you,’ said he to Reynolds, ‘degrade so high a genius as Voltaire before so mean a writer as Beattie? The existence of Dr. Beattie and his book together will be forgotten in the space of ten years, but your allegorical picture and the fame of Voltaire will live for ever, to your disgrace as a flatterer.’ Before the picture was exhibited Goldsmith was dead. For ten or twelve years they had been on terms of the most intimate friendship. Reynolds had consoled him in his disappointments, and rejoiced in all his successes. He had helped him with counsel and money. Of Goldsmith's love for Reynolds the dedication of ‘The Deserted Village’ is sufficient testimony. ‘The only dedication I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Permit me to inscribe this poem to you.’ Northcote tells us ‘Goldsmith's death was the severest blow Sir Joshua ever received. He did not touch a pencil for that day, a circumstance most extraordinary for him, who passed no day without a line.’ Sir Joshua acted as his executor, arranged his confused affairs, and selected the place for his monument in Westminster Abbey. It was not till a week after Goldsmith's death that his ‘Retaliation’ was published, with the well-known and unfinished ‘epitaph’ of Reynolds, which has been called ‘the best epitome of his character:’
Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind,
He has not left a wiser or better behind;
His pencil was striking, resistless, and grand,
His manners were gentle, complying, and bland;
Still born to improve us in every part,
His pencil our faces, his manners our heart;
To coxcombs averse, yet most civilly steering;
When they judged without skill, he was still hard of hearing;
When they talked of their Raphaels, Correggios, and stuff,
He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff.
Reynolds's two greatest rivals came to town about this time—Gainsborough (an old one) in 1774, and George Romney [q. v.], fresh from Italy, in 1775. The latter became so fashionable that, according to a remark of Lord Thurlow, ‘there was a Reynolds faction and a Romney faction.’ There was also another painter who, if not a serious rival, was a spiteful enemy. This was Nathaniel Hone, who sent to the exhibition of 1775 a picture called ‘The Pictorial Conjuror displaying the whole Art of Optical Deception,’ which represented Reynolds clothing models with garments taken from well-known pictures which float about the room. Of course it was rejected.
Sir Joshua sent twelve pictures to the exhibition of 1775, which comprised a portrait (of Dr. Richard Robinson [q. v.], primate of Ireland, now at Christ Church, Oxford) which Horace Walpole declared was the best he ever painted, and ‘Mrs. Sheridan as St. Cecilia,’ perhaps the most lovely in its feeling of any of his works. There was also a charming picture of children, ‘A Beggar Boy and his Sister,’ now called ‘Boy with Cabbage Nets.’ This year Northcote left Reynolds to start on his own account, his master warning him that ‘something more is to be done than that which did formerly; Kneller, Lely, and Hudson will not do now.’
In 1776 Sir Joshua painted his portrait for the Uffizzi Gallery at Florence, and sent it with a long and graceful letter in Italian. In this year Hannah More, who was in the height of her reputation as a poetess, visited London. She was treated by Reynolds with his invariable courtesy, and was greatly pleased with his ‘Infant Samuel’ and ‘St. John,’ then on his easel. The former (probably the most popular of all his pictures, and more than once repeated) is in the National Gallery. It was exhibited this year as ‘The Child Daniel,’ together with the ‘St. John,’ also a child. These and two portraits, Master Herbert as Bacchus and Master Crewe as Henry VIII (the latter an admirable bit of masquerade), show how much his time was now devoted to children. A rarer subject, and treated with much effect, was Omiah the Otaheitan, a ‘lion’ of the season; and other portraits of the year, of very fine quality, were those of the Duchess of Devonshire, Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu [q. v.] (the Queen of the ‘Blues’), and Lord Temple, while one of Garrick takes rank among his greatest masterpieces of character.
Sir Joshua's famous groups of the Dilettanti Society, of which he had been elected a member in 1766, and painter in 1769, though not completed till 1780, were commenced in 1777, in which year he spent August and part of November at Blenheim in painting his great picture of the Marlborough family. It was sent to the academy in 1778, with a half-length of the archbishop of York and two other portraits. The lovely picture of Mrs. Payne-Gallwey, with her child riding ‘pick-a-back’—remarkable for the beauty of both landscape and figures—belongs to the same year, a considerable portion of which was spent on the pictures designed for reproduction in the west window of New College Chapel, Oxford. They consisted of a ‘Nativity’ and the seven ‘Virtues.’ The ‘Nativity,’ the most important of Sir Joshua's religious pictures, was elegantly grouped and beautifully lighted, after the manner of Correggio's ‘Notte,’ by rays proceeding from the infant Saviour. The picture perished by fire at Belvoir Castle in 1816, together with one of the richest collections of Reynolds's works. The ‘Virtues,’ especially ‘Charity’ (with her children), are all beautiful. Mrs. Sheridan sat for the Virgin in the ‘Nativity,’ and also for the ‘Charity.’ The pictures of the ‘Virtues’ were bought by Lord Normanton at the Marchioness of Thomond's sale in 1821 for 5,565l., ‘Charity’ fetching 1,575l., and his lordship subsequently refused three times this price for them.
In 1778 Reynolds commenced his acquaintance with Miss Burney, which was warmly sustained until the end of his life. She has left us a vivid account of her first visit to Leicester Fields, where she met with ‘more scrupulous delicacy from Sir Joshua than from anybody.’ About this time the ‘Blue Stockings’ were at their height, and Sir Joshua was a constant guest of Mrs. Montagu, Mrs. Vesey, Mrs. Ord, Mrs. Walsingham, Mrs. Cholmondeley, and Mrs. Thrale. It is to the lively pen of the last that we owe the celebrated picture of Sir Joshua in society:
Of Reynolds all good should be said and no harm,
Though the heart is too frigid, the pencil too warm;
Yet each fault from his converse we still must disclaim,
As his temper 'tis peaceful, and pure as his fame;
Nothing in it o'erflows, nothing ever is wanting,
It nor chills like his kindness, nor glows like his painting.
When Johnson by strength overpowers our mind,
When Montague dazzles, and Burke strikes us blind,
To Reynolds well pleased for relief we must run,
Rejoice in his shadow, and shrink from the sun.
The acquittal of Keppel at his memorable trial in 1779 (the year also of Garrick's and Hudson's death) was not only a source of great pleasure but of some profit to his old friend Reynolds, who was commissioned by the admiral to paint portraits of him for presentation to his counsel, Dunning, Erskine, and Lee, and to Burke. The king and queen also sat to Sir Joshua this year (for the portraits for the academy's new rooms at Somerset House, which were opened next year). The Prince of Wales and Gibbon, and a few noblemen, including the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, also sat to him; but his sitters were few, a great part of his time being still occupied with the ‘Nativity,’ which (with ‘Faith,’ ‘Hope,’ and ‘Charity’) was sent to the exhibition of 1779, but almost repainted afterwards. This exhibition also contained his full-length of Viscountess Crosbie, remarkable for its suggestion of swift and graceful movement. In this year the public were agitated by fears of a French invasion, but Reynolds wrote to Burke: ‘My mind has been so much occupied by my business that I have escaped feeling those terrors that seem to have possessed all the rest of mankind.’
The opening of the academy's rooms in Somerset House was the great professional event of 1780. The centre of the ceiling of the library was painted by Sir Joshua, with a figure of ‘Theory’ (now in the academy's gallery in Burlington House), and he exhibited, among other works, his portrait of Gibbon, a masterpiece; the charming full-length of Prince William Frederick, son of the Duke of Gloucester, and his duchess (the often-painted Maria, erst Lady Waldegrave); the design of ‘Justice’ for the New College window; and a portrait (as Una) of the daughter of Topham Beauclerk, whose death this year made a gap in the ranks of the Literary Club and the friendships of Reynolds. In June of this year occurred the ‘Gordon riots,’ when Sir George Savile's house in Leicester Fields was gutted before Reynolds's eyes, and an attack on the academy was threatened. In the summer and autumn he visited Lord Darnley (at Cobham), the Duke of Rutland (at Cheveley), Keppel (at Bagshot), and Dunning (soon to be Lord Ashburton) at Spitchwick on Dartmoor.
In 1781 Sir Joshua painted ‘Mrs. Nisbett as Circe,’ and exhibited the celebrated group of the Ladies Waldegrave, the great-nieces of Horace Walpole, embroidering and winding silk, and no fewer than thirteen other pictures, which included the ‘Death of Dido’ (now at Buckingham Palace), one of the most important of his works of this class; ‘Thais,’ for which the lady afterwards known as Emma lady Hamilton [q. v.] sat at the request of the Hon. Charles Greville; and a ‘Child asleep.’ Among the portraits were the lovely Duchess of Rutland, a group of her children, Master Bunbury, the son of ‘Little Comedy,’ and Dr. Burney (for Mr. Thrale). He also painted ‘Mrs. Thrale and her daughter Queenie’ in this year, during which Thrale died, and the Streatham gallery came to an end. In July he went to Flanders and Holland with Mr. Metcalfe, and took elaborate notes of the pictures, which were published after his death. Later in the year he painted ‘Offy,’ now Mrs. R. L. Gwatkin, and her husband.
In 1782 Sir Joshua exhibited fifteen pictures, including portraits of Lord-chancellor Thurlow, who afterwards called him ‘a great scoundrel and a bad painter;’ Mrs. Mary Robinson (Perdita), already discarded by her royal lover, but still in the flower of her beauty; William Beckford (then twenty-three, but already the author of ‘Vathek,’ not yet published); two little boys, sons of William Brummel, one of whom was to develop into the ‘Beau;’ Captain (afterwards Sir Banaster) Tarleton [q. v.], celebrated for his brilliant feats during the American campaign; and Mrs. Baldwin, the ‘fair Greek,’ wife of the English consul at Smyrna, seated cross-legged on a divan in striped green silk and turbanlike head-dress. In this year Reynolds finished his annotations to Mason's translation of Du Fresnoy's ‘Art of Painting;’ John Opie [q. v.], to whom Reynolds had given advice and encouragement, now became for a while a very fashionable portrait-painter.
Reynolds had called upon Gainsborough shortly after he came to London, and Gainsborough never returned the visit; but in November this year Reynolds sat to Gainsborough, ‘the nearest rapprochement,’ says Leslie, ‘recorded of these illustrious rivals, till Sir Joshua was called by the dying Gainsborough to his bedside.’ The progress of the portrait was cut short by a paralytic attack, which caused serious alarm to Sir Joshua's friends, and brought a letter from Johnson, then at Brighthelmstone, in which strong affection beats through studied language. His physician sent him to Bath, and by the end of the month he was back again in his usual health; but his sittings to Gainsborough were never renewed. He sent only ten pictures to the exhibition in 1783 (a small number at that time for him), and they did not comprise any of particular note; but his powers were unabated, and he this year painted what may be regarded as his masterpiece, the picture of Mrs. Siddons as the ‘Tragic Muse.’ The conception of the picture is taken from Michael Angelo's ‘Isaiah;’ but, according to Mrs. Siddons's account, she assumed the attitude spontaneously. The picture is signed at full length in ornamental characters on the border of her dress, Sir Joshua saying that he could not lose the opportunity of going down to posterity on the hem of her garment. He inscribed Lady Cockburn's drapery in a similar way. It was in 1783 that James Barry (1741–1806) [q. v.] ended his long and noble labour in the hall of the Society of Arts in the Adelphi, which was thrown open to the public on the same day as the exhibition of the Royal Academy. In the pamphlet which he issued as a companion to the exhibition, Barry poured forth his long-bottled wrath against the academy in general and Sir Joshua in particular, not scrupling to insinuate vile charges against Sir Joshua's private character. For these hereafter he made amends by supporting Sir Joshua in his quarrel with the academy, and, immediately after his death, by pronouncing in his sixth lecture a warm eulogium on Sir Joshua's genius and character. But there was no excuse, except an overstrained mind, for his attacks in 1783; for Sir Joshua had been very kind to him when he came to London, and—till 1767 at least—Barry had professed unbounded admiration for Sir Joshua's skill. For once Sir Joshua entertained feelings of animosity, and told Northcote that he feared he hated Barry. This year Reynolds visited the Duke of Rutland at Belvoir, Lord Harcourt at Nuneham, the Eliots at Port Eliot, and the Parkers at Saltram. He also perhaps went to Flanders. He certainly did so in 1785 to see the pictures which the monasteries had been compelled to sell, and made some valuable purchases. On this occasion, as on others, he probably bought for others as well as for himself.
Besides the Mrs. Siddons, the exhibition of 1784 contained among his sixteen contributions the portraits of Fox and Warton, of Lady Dashwood and her child, Lady Honeywood and her children, and Mrs. Abington as Roxalana, altogether a magnificent display of varied power. In December of this year another irreparable gap was made in the inner circle of his friendships by the death of Johnson, with whom he had lived in unbroken intimacy more than thirty years. Nobody admired Johnson more or understood him better, and to no one was he a truer friend. He was one of the few who could get the better of Johnson in conversation, and could effectually protect others, like Goldsmith, from the brutality of his assaults; and on the rare occasions when this was directed towards himself, as when Johnson accused him of taking too much wine, he could retort with a force and justice which brought the old gladiator to his knees. He assisted Johnson with some notes to his edition of Shakespeare. He exerted himself to procure Johnson's pension, and, shortly before his death, to obtain from the government a grant to enable him to go to Italy for his health. Johnson from the first conceived a high opinion of Reynolds's intelligence, and his admiration and affection only increased as life went on. Johnson characterised Reynolds as ‘the most invulnerable man I know; the man with whom if you should quarrel, you would find the most difficulty how to abuse.’ Sir Joshua was appointed one of his executors, and received as a legacy Martinière's ‘French Dictionary’ and Johnson's own copy of his ‘Dictionary.’ On his deathbed he made Sir Joshua promise not to use his pencil on Sunday, to read the Bible whenever possible and always on Sundays, and to forgive him 30l. which he owed him, as he wished to leave the money to a poor family. Reynolds did not strictly perform the first promise. Sir Joshua left two dialogues in which Johnson's method of conversation is admirably caricatured, and also a paper containing a singularly just estimate of his character (all these are printed in Leslie's life).
Another of Johnson's executors was Edmund Malone [q. v.], whom Reynolds had painted as early as 1774, and who became one of Sir Joshua's most intimate friends. Sir Joshua submitted to him at least one of his discourses for revision, and he published a collection of Sir Joshua's writings, with a memoir, in 1797. Miss Palmer wrote to a cousin in Calcutta in January 1786: ‘My uncle seems more bewitched than ever with his palette and pencils; he is painting from morning to night, and the truth is that every picture he does seems better than the former.’ He exhibited sixteen pictures in 1785, thirteen in 1786 and 1787, and seventeen in 1788. To these years belong some of the most celebrated of all his pictures of all kinds: the three pictures for Boydell's ‘Shakespeare,’ ‘The Witch Scene in Macbeth,’ ‘The Death of Cardinal Beaufort,’ and best of the trio, the ‘Puck,’ the ‘Cymon and Iphigenia,’ and the ‘Infant Hercules’ (painted for the Empress of Russia), the Duchess of Devonshire playing hot cockles with her baby, and the group of Lady Smyth and her children, both unsurpassed in their different ways; his noblest heroic portrait, the Lord Heathfield (in the National Gallery), the fine intellectual characterisations of Hunter, Sheridan, Boswell, Erskine, and Philippe Egalité; some of his loveliest female heads: Lavinia, Lady Spencer and her sister, Lady Betty Foster, and Mrs. Braddyl; and some of his most exquisite pictures of childhood, as the cherub-head in different views (portraits of Lord William Gordon's little girl, now in the National Gallery), the ‘Simplicity’ (Offy's daughter), and Penelope Boothby. He was still as fond of society as ever (he joined a new club called ‘The Eumelian,’ after Dr. John Ash [q. v.], in 1787), and in unimpaired health. But while engaged in painting a portrait (probably that of Lady Beauchamp), his eyesight suddenly failed. Against the entries of his appointments for Monday, 13 July 1789, is written ‘Prevented by my eye beginning to be obscured.’ In ten weeks' time he entirely lost the sight of one eye; and, though he painted a little on his unfinished pictures till November 1790, he never commenced another. The progress of the disease, ‘gutta serena,’ was afterwards slow, and he never entirely lost the sight of the other eye, being able to write his will with his own hand on 5 Nov. 1791. These last years were marked by almost the only disagreeable episode in his professional life, the conduct of the academy in opposing with much rudeness his proposal to elect Joseph Bonomi the elder [q. v.] to full membership in order to fill the vacant chair of professor of perspective. Reynolds in disgust resigned his presidency and membership (23 Feb. 1790), but resumed them at the request of the academy (16 March). It is interesting to note that his late antagonist Barry was on this occasion his most vehement supporter, and that a leader in the movement against the president was his old friend Sir William Chambers. To the exhibition this year he sent his own portrait, one of Mrs. Billington, and four others. In June he attended with Boswell the execution of an old servant of Mrs. Thrale, for which he was blamed in the papers. The draft of a letter in defence was found among his letters, and is printed by Leslie (ii. 588–589). In December he delivered his fifteenth and last discourse, in which he referred with much dignity to the recent differences with the academy. During its delivery one of the beams which supported the floor gave way with a sudden crash, and the audience rushed to the door; but Sir Joshua did not move from his seat, and as soon as confidence was restored he resumed his discourse as if nothing had happened. It concluded with an eloquent eulogium of Michael Angelo, and in its final passage he said: ‘I should desire that the last words I should pronounce in this academy and from this place might be the name of Michael Angelo.’ And these were the last words he pronounced there.
In the beginning of 1791 Reynolds paid visits to Burke at Beaconsfield, and Lord Ossory at Ampthill. He offered his collection of old masters to the Royal Academy at a very low price, and, on their refusal, exhibited them at a room in the Haymarket, with the view of disposing of them, but gave the profits of the exhibition to his old servant, Ralph Kirkley. In the catalogue, which he wrote himself, he called it ‘Ralph's Exhibition.’ He still attended the meetings of the academy, and was greatly interested in the erection of the monument to Johnson in St. Paul's Cathedral, offering to supply from his own purse any deficit (at that time equal to 300l.) in the subscriptions received. In May he sat for his portrait, for the last time, to the Swedish artist De Breda. His exertions for his friends were still constant. Boswell was appointed secretary of foreign correspondence to the academy, and Dr. Thomas Barnard [q. v.] (bishop of Killaloe) their chaplain; and in this year also the friends of Miss Burney, of whom Sir Joshua was one of the most active, procured her release from her office at court, which had much affected her health and spirits. She has left a touching account of two visits to him in his last illness, during which Boswell was a frequent visitor, and his niece, Miss Palmer, attended him with assiduous affection. About September 1791 his usual spirits began to give way under the apprehension of total blindness, and he began to suffer from loss of appetite, due probably to the disease which had begun to affect his liver, but was not discovered till a fortnight before his death. He died tranquilly and with little pain, between eight and nine o'clock on Thursday evening, 23 Feb. 1792, at his house in Leicester Fields.
Within a few hours of his death Burke wrote an obituary notice, in which the essential qualities of his character and his genius were set forth in words of singular truth and elegance. His executors were Burke, Malone, and Metcalfe, who proposed that the body should be removed to the academy, and that the funeral should proceed thence to St. Paul's. An objection, raised by Sir William Chambers, that the academy had no power to use their rooms for the purpose, was overruled by the king, and the night before the funeral the body lay in state in a portion of the model academy, which was hung with black and lighted with wax candles in silver sconces. He was buried in the crypt of St. Paul's on Saturday, 3 March, in a grave next to that of his friend, Bishop Newton, and near to that of Wren. The pall-bearers were the Dukes of Dorset, Leeds, and Portland, the Marquises Townshend and Abercorn, the Earls of Carlisle, Inchiquin, and Upper Ossory, Viscount Palmerston and Lord Eliot. The procession numbered ninety-one carriages, and the followers included the whole body of the academy and its students, and between fifty and sixty of the most distinguished men in England. The sense of loss extended to the throng. ‘Never,’ wrote Burke, ‘was a funeral of ceremony attended with so much sincere concern of all sorts of people.’ A monument in the cathedral was erected in 1813, designed by Flaxman and inscribed with a Latin epitaph by Payne Knight.
The bulk of his fortune was left to Miss Palmer, who inherited in all nearly 100,000l., and was this year (1792) married to the Earl of Inchiquin (afterwards Marquis of Thomond). He left Mrs. Gwatkin (Offy) 10,000l., and his own sister Frances 2,500l. for life, with reversion to Miss Palmer. To Edmund Burke he left 2,000l. besides cancelling a bond to the like amount; to the Earl of Upper Ossory and Lord Palmerston he left the choice of one of his pictures (the former chose the ‘Nymph and Boy’ or ‘Venus and Cupid,’ the latter ‘The Infant Academy’); to Sir Abraham Hume the choice of his Claudes; to Sir George Beaumont Sebastian Bourdon's ‘Return of the Ark’ (now in the National Gallery); and to the Duke of Portland his own picture of an ‘Angel and the Cross’ (the upper part of the ‘Nativity’). To Mason he left the celebrated miniature of Milton by Cooper; to Richard Burke, junior, another of Cromwell, by the same artist; to his nephew, William Johnson, his watch and seals; to Mrs. Bunbury the portrait of her son; to Mrs. Gwyn her own portrait; and 1,000l. to his old servant, Ralph Kirkley.
Reynolds was the greatest portrait-painter that England has produced, and one of the greatest painters of the world. Mr. Ruskin ranks him among the ‘seven supreme colourists,’ the others being Titian, Giorgione, Correggio, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Turner, and says: ‘Considered as a painter of individuality in the human form and mind, I think him, even as it is, the prince of portrait-painters. Titian paints nobler pictures and Vandyck had nobler subjects, but neither of them entered so subtly as Sir Joshua did into the minor varieties of human heart and temper’ (The Two Paths, Lect. 2). His chief defect was in his draughtsmanship of limbs, which is often faulty, owing to his want of training; but no one was more conscious of this defect, or more clever in concealing it. Owing to the employment of fugitive pigments and constant experiments in vehicles, many of his pictures faded so soon after they left his easel that Horace Walpole suggested that they should be paid for by annuities so long as they lasted. Injudicious cleaning has ruined others, but many have stood well, and it may be said now, as was said in his lifetime, that a faded Sir Joshua is finer than a fresh work by another hand. The beauty of his disposition and the nobility of his character were equal to his talents. Without any physical advantages—for he was neither tall nor handsome, and had the great social drawback of deafness—he secured without seeking, and maintained without effort, a position in society which is almost unrivalled. Treating all men on the plain level of common human nature and unactuated by any prejudice, he mixed, as by natural charter, with all classes. His principal passports were kindliness, sincerity, and tolerance; but these were aided by a ready sympathy, a well-informed mind, gentle manners, and invariable tact and common-sense. The charm of his presence and conversation was all the more irresistible because it was unforced and unfeigned. He was a born diplomatist, and avoided friction by natural instinct; a philosopher who early learnt and consistently acted on the principle not to concern himself about matters of small importance. He was thus able to smooth his own path and that of others, and to preserve his mind from mean and paltry thoughts. The keynote of his whole life was his art—whether consciously or not he acted up to the ideal of a perfect portrait-painter—whose business was not to criticise but to observe, not to direct but to reflect the currents of society. ‘I go,’ he said, ‘with the great stream of life.’ For the purpose of such a career the hours which he spent in his painting-room were not more profitable than those he spent out of it. It is but natural that such a life should expose him to charges of poco-curanteism, and that it should tend to the repression of much that is salient and picturesque in personal character; but without his dispassionate view of things that did not vitally affect his profession or his friends, he would have been neither the great artist nor the great gentleman that he was.
The numerous anecdotes of his life give many instances of his charity in thought and deed to poor people, to struggling artists, to his friends and to their friends; and he never turned his back on an associate in trouble, political or social, as is shown by his conduct to Wilkes, to Baretti, to Warren Hastings, and to Samuel Foote.
His literary works consist mainly of his ‘Discourses,’ which probably received some polish from Johnson, Burke, Malone, and others before they were published, but were essentially his own both in style and thought. They were the result less of reading than experience, and are distinguished by that broad and happy generalisation which was the characteristic also of his art. Perhaps the best known of them is the fourteenth (1788), in which he pronounced his fine and generous tribute to the memory of Gainsborough. They contain advice to students which is of permanent value, expressed in language which could scarcely be improved. If we make some allowance for the time at which he wrote, most of his judgments on pictures and artists may be accepted now. His ideas are generally sound, and if there sometimes seems a discrepancy between his practice and his theory it is greatly due to the fact that he was a portrait-painter, while his addresses dealt with ideal art. This discrepancy would be more perceptible if he had not applied the style of the greatest ideal artists to his own portraits. The spirit of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and Correggio, and of his favourite Bolognese masters is often felt in his most original portraits. The least valuable of the ‘Discourses’ is that upon sculpture. They have been frequently reprinted, and cannot be neglected by any student of art criticism. An excellent summary of them is given in Phillips's ‘Sir Joshua Reynolds.’
In March 1795 many of his pictures by old masters were sold by auction at Christie's for 10,319l. 2s. 6d.; in 1796 the contents of the studio fetched 4,535l. 18s. at Greenwood's; in 1798 a further sale of his ‘old masters’ took place at H. Phillips's; and in 1821 the pictures, drawings by old masters, and prints retained by Lady Thomond brought 15,040l. at Christie's. Since then Sir Joshua's pictures, especially the female portraits, have increased enormously in value. His portrait of Lady Betty Delmé was sold at Christie's in 1894 for eleven thousand guineas. The largest sum received by Sir Joshua for a portrait picture was probably the seven hundred guineas paid him for the great Marlborough group. Horace Walpole said he paid more for the group of the Ladies Waldegrave, but this is not credited. The Empress Catherine paid him fifteen hundred guineas for the ‘Infant Hercules,’ and added a gold box with her cipher in diamonds. He received twelve hundred guineas from the Duke of Rutland for the ‘Nativity.’
About seven hundred plates have been engraved after Reynolds, by McArdell, J. R. Smith, Valentine Green, J. Watson, T. Watson, E. Fisher, J. Dixon, R. Houston, W. Dickinson, J. Jones, G. Marchi, W. Sharp, Samuel Cousins, and others. Fine and rare proofs of these now fetch very large prices, in some cases exceeding those obtained by Reynolds for the pictures. In 1895 a proof of ‘Mrs. Pelham feeding Chickens,’ engraved by W. Dickinson, was sold at Christie's for 325l. 10s. A series of 350 small plates were published about 1825 by the engraver Samuel William Reynolds [q. v.] To these, from 1860 onwards, were added 270—plates after subjects not included in the first series; all these plates have been issued in a complete form by Messrs. Henry Graves & Co.
A perfect list of the works of Sir Joshua and the dates when they were painted has not hitherto , owing to the absence of his pocket-books. But his ledgers, in which he recorded the prices he received for his pictures from 1760 till his death, became the property of Mr. Algernon Graves, who has been long engaged, with Mr. W. V. Cronin, in preparing the complete work on the subject.
Frances Reynolds (1729–1807), the youngest sister of Sir Joshua, was born on 6 June 1729. She kept Sir Joshua's house for many years after he came to London, and employed herself in miniature and other painting. But her temperament was not congenial to her brother, and when her nieces, the Misses Palmer, were old enough to take her place, she (at a date not precisely recorded, but before 15 Feb. 1779) left his house for ever. Madame d'Arblay tells us that she was ‘a woman of worth and understanding but of a singular character,’ and that this singularity consisted in never knowing her own mind about anything, and in a tiresome fidgetiness which made her very difficult to live with. The separation from her brother caused her lasting regret. She felt, according to a draft of a letter found among her papers, that she had been ‘thrown out of the path nature had in a peculiar manner fitted’ (her) ‘for.’
After leaving her brother, who made her an allowance, she went first to Devonshire, and then, in 1768, to stay with a Miss Flint in Paris, where Reynolds visited her; she afterwards lived as a lodger of Dr. John Hoole [q. v.], whose portrait, prefixed to the first edition of his translation of Ariosto, was painted by her. Of her work as an artist there were different opinions. Sir Joshua, speaking of the copies which she made of his pictures, says ‘they make other people laugh and me cry;’ but a letter of Northcote's says that ‘she paints very fine, both history and portrait.’ Dr. Johnson, who was very fond of her, and visited her in Dover Street, where she was living by herself in 1780, was not pleased with the portrait she made of himself in 1783, and called it his ‘grimly ghost.’ Of her literary work he held a higher opinion, and he wrote of her ‘Essay on Taste’ (privately printed, 1784, 8vo): ‘There are in these few pages or remarks such a depth of penetration, such nicety of observation, as Locke or Pascal might be proud of.’ But he went further than this in his admiration for Miss Reynolds herself, for he thought her ‘very near to purity itself;’ and all his letters to her and about her show unfailing interest in his ‘Renny dear.’ He left her a book as a legacy. She printed a ‘Melancholy Tale’ in verse in 1790. On her brother's death she took a large house in Queen's Square, Westminster, where she exhibited her own works, and where she died, unmarried, on 1 Nov. 1807.[Malone's Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1797; Northcote's Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds; Beechey's Literary Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds; Farington's Life of Reynolds; Cotton's Sir Joshua Reynolds and his Works, Catalogues of Portraits by Sir J. R., and Notes and Observations on his Pictures; Cunningham's Lives (Heaton); Phillips's Sir Joshua Reynolds; Pilkington's Dict.; Bryan's Dict. (Graves and Armstrong); Nollekens and his Times; Walpole's Letters; Madame D'Arblay's Diary and Letters; Boswell's Life of Johnson; Mrs. Piozzi's Memoirs; Hazlitt's Conversations of Northcote; Forster's Life of Goldsmith; Catalogues of British Institution (1813), Winter Exhibitions of the Royal Academy, Reynolds's Exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery (F. G. Stephens), Guelph Exhibition at New Gallery, and Loan Collections at South Kensington 1867 and 1868; Ruskin's Modern Painters, &c.; Hamilton's Catalogue of the engraved works of Sir Joshua Reynolds; information supplied by Sir Robert Edgcumbe and Mr. Algernon Graves.]