Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Powerful Portrait of an Artist Pulling out All the Stops; EXHIBITION JOSHUA REYNOLDS: EXPERIMENTS IN PAINT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Powerful Portrait of an Artist Pulling out All the Stops; EXHIBITION JOSHUA REYNOLDS: EXPERIMENTS IN PAINT

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LUKE

Wallace Collection, W1 BEN LUKE FEW artists are as central to British art as Joshua Reynolds. The first president of the Royal Academy, a great educator and the most famous English painter of his day, he was also controversial; adored and respected by many -- "Damn the man, how various he is," said his peer Thomas Gainsborough -- and reviled by others, including William Blake.

He can seem remote today, his art less warmly human and expressive than Gainsborough's, less original and imaginative than Blake's. But this exhibition, the result of a scientific analysis of works in the Wallace Collection and elsewhere, brings us closer to the living, breathing artist.

In his own era, he was seen as a great experimenter, obsessively pursuing techniques that made his paintings as lustrous and sonorous as the Old Masters, constantly refreshing his approach to subject, composition and painterly technique. An experimental canvas shows how Reynolds would test colours and varnishes, scrawling notes on what they were -- painting as a scientific as much as an aesthetic process. …

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