Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Personal Study

Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Personal Study

Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Personal Study

Sir Joshua Reynolds, a Personal Study


Go back beyond the electric light,
The radio and the works of steam,
And look on England dark at night
Or lit but by a taper's gleam.

Go back the last two hundred years
And there another nation find,
Of primal toils practitioners,
And men of self-supporting mind.


IT was with relief that England moved away from the severe Gothic mysteries and from the nightmare of civil war. The closing years of the seventeenth century brought a new understanding of the ordered clarity of Nature and of the laws of reason that was to shape the lives and purposes of Englishmen throughout the century to come. To Joshua Reynolds, philosopher and man of letters, fell not only the honour of establishing the first great age of English art and of recording, as no one else, the likenesses of the outstanding men and women of his time; it fell to him also to attempt to rationalize that spirit of cultured and artistic progress which was characteristic of his age, and which he exemplified by a steady determination in his own life. Reynolds was not the least of those who, "at last, across the vast gulf of the monkish and deluded past", as Basil Willey has put it, "could salute the ancients from an eminence perhaps as lofty as their own

There is a sense of respect and dedication in the gesture of the young Reynolds, at a crowded auction room on his first visit to London, pressing forward to take the hand of Alexander Pope the hand that had written:

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night: God said, Let Newton be! and all was light!

Reynolds never forgot his glimpse of the great little hunchback . . .

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