Friday, February 13, 2015

Sir Joshua Reynolds–Artist Extraordinaire

When writing novels, authors spent countless hours doing research. It comes with the territory. My collection of thirty-three (and counting!) novels plus numerous short stories all have pages and pages of information that I’ve gathered to help me create realistic stories. But including too much research in a novel can be a kiss of death. And sometimes, I’ve found, all the hours of research boil down to only one line in the novel, but it’s an important line… and I know it’s accurate as well!

In two of my Regency romances, both of them are time-travels: THE QUESTING BOX and TIMELESS DECEPTION, I’ve used the influential English artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds, to give an authentic flavor to my books. Here is an article I wrote a while ago on this painter to give me some insight on him as a person.

First, some background on art. The beginning of the eighteenth century saw the end of the Baroque style of painting as exemplified by Anthony Van Dyck, Flemish, (1599-1641). The Baroque era was known for its masculine tone and portraits of pompous majesty. The death of the French king Louis XIV in 1715 ushered in a new style: Rococo, a style that was famous for its feminine influence. Small details, fluid lines, and lavish design all characterized the Rococo school. François Boucher, French, (1703-1770) is an example of this luxuriousness and wanton frivolity.

But the pendulum of taste soon swung to an emotional feeling; more serious and moralistic (typical of a Cancer Sun Sign). This Romantic style stresses the concept of naturalness or “Grand Style” versus the artificially of the Baroque and the Rococo.

The chief proponent of this style is Sir Joshua Reynolds, English (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792—Sun Sign: Cancer). In theory, Reynolds expounded the Baroque style but in practice he used the natural element in his paintings. Below is his self-portrait painted circa 1776. (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

He was the one of the founders of the Royal Academy of Arts and became its first president in 1768—a position he kept until his death. Reynolds was also the first to adopt the style of the European masters and, in doing so, raised the standard so that English painters were no longer considered technicians of a menial trade. Because of Reynolds, it was now fashionable for English nobility to have their portraits done by their own. He grew famous and was besieged by commissions. In recognition of Reynolds’ contribution to art, King George III knighted him in 1769.

Reynolds also changed the look of English portraiture. His greatest works are those intimate portraits with casual but studied negligence. LORD HEATHFIELD, 1787, (below) is striking in the comparison of the turbulent background of Gibraltar with the calm, unidealized face of Lord Heathfield. (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

COLONEL GEORGE K. H. COUSSMAKER, 1782, (below) lounges gracefully against a tree; his horse’s neck curving down at the colonel’s boots. This is a very unusual pose. (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

But Reynolds’ most memorable portrait is of MRS. ABINGTON AS MISS PRUE IN "LOVE FOR LOVE" BY WILLIAM CONGREVE, 1771, (below). In addition to being an actress, Mrs. Frances Abington was a former member of the demimonde. Here, she gazes out at the audience while reflecting, and sucks her thumb as a reflex action! (Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Regrettably, most of Sir Joshua Reynolds’ paintings have faded due to his experimentation with paint medium. It wasn’t unusual for him to try different mixtures of wax, varnish, and egg without allowing proper drying time. Even in the art patron’s own lifetime, sections of the paint would fall away or buckle from Reynolds’ unorthodox combinations.

Damaged or in fine repair, Sir Joshua Reynolds’ paintings are lovely visions of a world long vanished.


So there you have it: a concise snippet on Sir Joshua Reynolds.


Susanne Marie Knight
Read outside the box: award-winning Romance Writing With A Twist!

 The Questing Box 
The Questing Box, 5 Stars, Reader Favorite!

 Timeless Deception 
Timeless Deception, 5 Stars, PEARL AWARD NOMINEE for Best Time-Travel AND
GOLDEN ROSE NOMINEE for Best Time-Travel