REYNOLDS, Sir Joshua
(b. 1723, Plympton Earl, d. 1792, London)
Lady Elizabeth Delmé and her Children1777-80
Oil on canvas, 239 x 147 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington
English portrait painting after 1750 moved in the direction of naturalness. Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough - exact contemporaries - were the two greatest English portrait painters of the eighteenth century, but their pictures were of quite different types. Reynolds was a temperamental painter who loved to yield to the excitement of actual painting. For all that, he was acutely concerned over all questions of technique, and throughout his life he studied the pictures of the masters, especially of Rembrandt and Rubens, in an effort to penetrate their secret. In the Baroque manner he painted his figures in the action and attitude best fitted to the sitter's character. When his sitters were women, he approached the sensuousness of Rubens.