Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723 –
1792) replaced William Hogarth as the dominant painter in the second half of
the 18th century. He was born in Devonshire on July 16, 1723, and
was educated by his father, a clergyman and the master of the free grammar
school in the place. He wanted his son to be a doctor, but the boy wanted to
paint very much. At the age of 8 he made a perfect drawing of the school. And
that astonished his father greatly.
When Reynolds was 18 he went to London to
study art under Thomas Hudson, an artist and portrait painter. In two years he
began to paint portraits. Reynolds was very witty, clever and friendly. He got
on well with people. One of his friends suggested a trip to Italy. There
Reynolds spent some years, learning the art of old masters. He was deeply
impressed by Michelangelo. To the end of his life Michelangelo remained for
Reynolds the supreme figure in art.
After his coming back to London, Reynolds
painted a lot of portraits, as there were many women who wanted to appear as
angels and men who wished to appear as heroes and philosophers in his pictures.
His popularity was great. Famous scientists, writers, politicians, philosophers
visited his hospitable house. He also played a very important role in politics.
In 1760 the London world of art was
greatly impressed by the public picture show of the Society of Artists. That
was the idea of Reynolds. Then the artists asked for help and patronage from
King George III to found the Royal Academy. And in 1768 the academy was
founded. Reynolds was its first president. Later he was appointed the King’s
Reynolds’ life was peaceful and happy. He
was a prosperous and successful artist, and he created his wonderful portraits.
He idealized the faces of the sitters, but they did not lose the likeness. He
wanted to paint not only a portrait, but a historical picture or allegory,
that’s why he dressed the sitters in period costumes and even introduced
mythological or allegorical overtones.
Reynolds’ best paintings are
"The Portrait of the Actress Sarah Siddons”, "Venus and Cupid”, "Captain Robert
Orme”, the portraits of the King’s family, etc.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727 – 1788) painted
portraits and landscapes. He was born in Sudbury, Suffolk, in 1727. His father
was a cloth merchant; his mother painted flower-pictures and approved of her
son’s desire to draw. His father sent Thomas to London to study art when he was
12. He stayed in London for 8 years. In 1746 he fell in love with a charming
girl, Margaret Burr, and married her. Two daughters were born of this marriage.
Gainsborough’s career as a painter started
very successfully. He painted both small-sized portraits and landscapes. Then
he moved to Bath, which was the general resort of wealth and fashion at that
time. In Bath Gainsborough became a fashionable artist, portraying the
aristocracy, wealthy merchants and artists. He did not produce small paintings
any more, but full-length, life-size portraits. He liked music very much, and
there he began to learn playing some musical instruments, for example the
violoncello, the harp, and the hautboy. His pictures were musical too.
First Gainsborough began to exhibit his
paintings with the London Society of Artists. He was a member of the Royal
Academy, but then he broke off relations with it. He moved his paintings to a
house in Pall Mall (a street in London) and exhibited them there every year.
Thomas Gainsborough was tall, fair-haired
handsome man, very impulsive and easily irritated, but generous and kind. He
was a self-taught artist and did not make the traditional trip to Italy to
learn art. He relied on his own remarkable instinct in painting. But he had a
considerable influence on the artist of the English school.
Thomas Gainsborough was famous for the truth, elegance and refinement of
his portraits and for the simple beauty of his landscapes. He painted 800
portraits and more than 200 landscapes. He created a form of art in which the
sitters and the background merge into a single whole. They are in direct
contact, in the harmony of mood.
Among the finest works are the portraits
of Mrs. Gainsborough, Mrs. Sheridan, the actress Sarah Siddons, his
self-portrait, "At the Cottage Door”, "Going to the Market”, etc. Gainsborough
was also famous for the so-called "Blue Portraits”, for example "Lady in Blue”,
"The Blue Boy” and others. His blue colours are very expressive and unusual. It
is a combination of tones such as silver, mother-of-pearl, lilac, pink. His works
are poetic, elegant and graceful. His landscapes started the remarkable English
One of the greatest English landscape
painters was John Constable (1776 – 1837). He was born in Suffolk on June 11,
1776. His father was a farmer and he sent his son to work in one of his
windmills. While working, John observed changes in the weather, and thanks to
that he got excellent knowledge of atmospheric changes and effects. He liked to
make drawings of the scenery around him.
Constable was sent to London to learn art. He tried to perfect himself
as a painter. In 1799 he became a student of the Royal Academy. He worked very
hard and in a few years’ time he exhibited his finest pictures. His power at
the time, though unrecognized, was at its highest. His first masterpieces were
"The Stratford Mill”, "The Hay Wain”, "Salisbury Cathedral”, "The Waterloo
Some of Constable’s pictures were taken to
Paris and created a profound sensation there. He received two gold medals; his
pictures were honorably hung in the Louvre. His merits were recognized in
France, but not in England. His studio was full of unsold pictures. After his
death the pictures greatly increased in value.
The life of Constable was as closely connected
with his mill as the life of a snail with its shell. He never looked for
effects in nature; he painted nature as he saw it. Almost all his pictures are
painted in one and the same place. Thanks to that he could learn about the
atmospheric changes, the influence of light and the weather. He was one of the
first to understand that a small place could yield a lot of landscapes
depending on the lighting and the time of day. Many years later Claude Monet (a
French painter) followed up that idea in the series of landscapes with a
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