Biography of Joshua Reynolds

Portrait of Joshua Reynolds

Joshua Reynolds was an eighteenth century artist and founder of the Royal Academy of Arts.

When and Where was he Born?

16th July 1723, Plympton, Devon, England.

Family Background:

Joshua Reynolds was the seventh child of ten (or eleven children) of the Reverend Samuel Reynolds, Master of Plympton Grammar School and his wife Theophila.


Plympton Grammar School. 1740 went to London to be apprenticed to Thomas Hudson, the son-in-law and a pupil of Richardson.

Timeline of Joshua Reynolds:

1740: Reynolds starts an apprenticeship with Thomas Hudson, the fashionable portrait painter in London.

1743: He ends his apprenticeship after a quarrel with his master.

1747: He paints his first self-portrait.

1749: Reynolds becomes friends with Augustus Keppel a naval officer and goes to Portugal, Spain and Minorca and on to Italy.

1750: He arrives in Rome. He suffered from a severe cold which made him partially deaf and he had to use an ear trumpet for the rest of his life.

1752: Reynolds starts the Journey home and stays in Paris on way and brings Giuseppe Marchi with him as his assistant.

1753: He finds a house in St Martin’s Lane, London.

1757: Reynolds paints a Self Portrait.

1759: He charges 100 Guineas for one of his full length portrait paintings.

1760: He takes up residence in number 47 Leicester Square London where he establishes a large studio. He exhibits at the first Annual Exhibition of the Society of Arts.

1764: The foundation of the Literary Club (later known just as “The Club”) with Samuel Johnson and others. Meetings are held at the Turks Head public house in Gerrard Street, London.

1765: Reynolds prices have now risen to 150 guineas for a full-length portrait.

1768: He is elected as the first President of the Royal Academy of Arts. He visits Paris again.

1769: Reynolds gives the first of his discourses on art at the Academy in January. The first Annual Exhibition is held. Reynolds receives his Knighthood from King George the Third.

1771: He visits Paris once more.

1772: Reynolds is elected as an Alderman of the Borough of Plympton. He paints a portrait of Oliver Goldsmith.

1773: He is given a Doctorate by the University of Oxford in Civil Law. He is elected as Mayor of Plympton.

1774: Charles James Fox becomes a member of The Club.

1775: He is elected a Member of the Academy of Florence.

Lady Bampfylde. 1777. Tate Gallery
Lady Bampfylde. 1777. Tate Gallery

1779: He paints a portrait of the historian Edward Gibbon.

1780: The Royal Academy of Art moves into new premises on the Strand. He paints a view of Richmond Hill. Although he was famous for portrait painting and was to complete over three thousand in his lifetime he also worked on landscapes.

1781: Reynolds goes on a tour of the Low Countries.

1783: He suffers a major inflammation of his eyes.

1784: He is appointed as Principal Painter in Ordinary to King George the Third after the death of Allan Ramsay.

1785: He makes a visit to Antwerp, Ghent and Brussels.

1787: Reynolds exhibits a portrait of Prince George in the Royal Academy exhibition.

1789: He loses the vision in one of his eyes. He makes a visit to the south coast for his health and paints a portrait of Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

Royal Academy
The Royal Academy of Arts in London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

1790: Reynolds resigns as President of the Royal Academy of Arts, but he withdraws his resignation a few months later. The General Assembly agree to his re-instatement and appoint Benjamin West and Sir William Chambers to deputise for him when he was is ill health. He delivers the last of his discourses on art at the Academy.

1791: He loses most of his vision.

1792: On New Year’s Day he becomes seized by a sickness and cannot hold down any of this food.

When and Where did he Die?

23rd February 1792, at home in Leicester Fields, London, England from a debilitating sickness.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

1778: First Seven Discourses on Art.


Never married.

Site of Grave:

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, England.

St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul’s Cathedral, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Holbourne Museum, Bath. Victoria Art Gallery, Bath. Bristol City Art Gallery.


Ascot Racecourse.


Pembroke College, Cambridge. Porters Hall, Trinity College, Cambridge. Elton Hall, Peterborough.


Saltham Park, Plymouth Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter. City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth.


Audley End, Saffron Walden.


Bowes Museum, Durham.


Sudeley Castle, Winchcombe.


City Art Gallery, Southampton.


Hatfield House, Hatfield. Woburn Abbey, Woburn.


Knole, Sevenoaks.


Blackburn Art Gallery.


Belvoir Castle, Grantham. Gunby Hall, Spilsby. Normandy Hall, Scunthorpe.


The Royal Academy of Arts. (There is a statue of him outside as he was the RA’s first President).
Dr Johnson’s House Museum.
Geffreye Museum.
National Portrait Gallery.
Sir John Soanes Museum.
Tate Britain.
Wallace Collection.
National Maritime Museum.
Kenwood House.


Sudley House, Liverpool.


Ham House, Richmond.
Marble Hill House, Twickenham.


Felbrigg Hall, Felbrigg, Norwich.
Houghton Hall, Kings Lynn.


Alnwick Castle, Alnwick.


Blenheim Palace, Woodstock.
Buscot Park, Faringdon.
Christchurch Picture Gallery, Oxford.
Rousham House, Steeple Aston.


Wedgwood Museum, Barlaston, Stoke on Trent.
Shugborough Hall, Stafford.


Manor House Museum, Bury St Edmunds.


Polesden Lacey, Dorking.


Arundel Castle.
Art Gallery, Brighton.
Goodwood House, Chichester.
Petworth House, Petworth.


Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle.


Arbury Hall, Nuneaton.
Ragley Hall, Alcester.
Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford on Avon.
Upton House.


Hagley Hall, Hagley.


Temple Newsam House, Leeds.
Harewood House, Leeds.
Cartwright Hall, Bradford.
Branham Park, Wetherby.
Beninbrough Hall, York.
Castle Howard, York.


Dalmony House, South Queensferry.
Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries.
Floors Castle, Berwickshire.
Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire.
Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow.
Museum and Art Gallery, Inverness.
Scone Palace, Scone, Perth.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.


School of Art Gallery, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Powis Castle, Welshpool.


Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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