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Saturday, 21 March 2015

Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint – exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Mrs Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1783-4)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Mrs Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1783-4)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Last week, I visited a relatively little known museum, the Wallace Collection, for a special bloggers’ event to celebrate the opening of a new exhibition: Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint. The exhibition runs until 7 June 2015 and comprises two rooms displaying 20 Reynolds paintings – 11 belonging to the Wallace Collection and the remainder on loan.

Here is a short video of the exhibition:


Popular and experimental

Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) was a very fashionable portrait painter during the second half of the 18th century and the first President of the Royal Academy.

The exhibition is the culmination of a four-year research project into the Reynolds paintings owned by the Wallace. Using various techniques including X-ray and infrared imaging, the paintings have been investigated by experts at the Wallace with advice from the National Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art

X-ray image of the portrait of Mary Robinson shown   above.
X-ray image of the portrait of Mary Robinson shown
above. The X-ray shows that Mary's hand was
originally painted supporting her chin
Photo © Andrew Knowles
The research has given new insights into the way that Reynolds painted. Some of the images produced during the research are on display alongside the actual paintings. These reveal earlier details, from the position of Mary's hand, shown above, to old paintings that have been painted over.

The X-ray image of the Yale Center's portrait of Mary Robinson shown below reveals that the painting was not Reynold’s first attempt, but that underneath the existing painting is another, earlier painting, upside down.

X-ray image of the Yale Center's portrait of Mary   Robinson shown below.
X-ray image of the Yale Center's portrait of Mary
Robinson shown below. The X-ray shows another
portrait that has been painted over.
Photo © Andrew Knowles
Early paintings

The paintings on display include some of Reynold's earliest work such as his self-portrait, painted c1747-9, before he went on the Grand Tour and a canvas entitled Studio Experiments in Colour and Media.

Self-portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1747-9)  © The National Portrait Gallery, London
Self-portrait Shading the Eyes by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1747-9)
© The National Portrait Gallery, London
Studio Experiments in Colour and Media © Royal Academy of Arts, London
Studio Experiments in Colour and Media
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
Fancy paintings

The exhibition includes a number of fancy paintings – imaginative paintings of people, representing ideas rather than intended as portraits. These include The Strawberry Girl and The Age of Innocence.

The Strawberry Girl by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1772-3)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
The Strawberry Girl by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1772-3)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
The Age of Innocence by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1788)  © The Tate; Photo © Andrew Knowles
The Age of Innocence by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1788)
© The Tate; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Portraits

I particularly liked the two paintings of Mary Robinson, probably because she is the character with whom I am most familiar. The portrait owned by the Wallace Collection is shown at the top of this blog post and is very similar to that owned by the Yale Center for British Art (shown below) although this latter portrait is less finished.

Mrs Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1783-5)  © The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection  Photo © Andrew Knowles
Mrs Mary Robinson by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1783-5)
© The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo © Andrew Knowles
4th Duke of Queensbury (Old Q)   by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1759)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
4th Duke of Queensbury ('Old Q') as Earl of March
by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1759)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Miss Jane Bowles by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1775)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Miss Jane Bowles by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1775)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Miss Nelly O'Brien by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1762-4)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Miss Nelly O'Brien by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1762-4)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
There is a second portrait of Miss Nelly O'Brien and a lovely portrait of Miss Kitty Fisher which were on loan and could not be photographed.

Mrs Susanna Hoare and Child
by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1763-4)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Mrs Mary Nesbitt by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1781)  © The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Mrs Mary Nesbitt by Sir Joshua Reynolds (c1781)
© The Wallace Collection; Photo © Andrew Knowles
Reynolds sometimes depicted his sitters in character, such as Mrs Abington as Miss Prue in Love for Love by William Congreve (below).

Mrs Abington as Miss Prue by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1771)  © The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection  Photo © Andrew Knowles
Mrs Abington as Miss Prue by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1771)
© The Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Photo © Andrew Knowles
The Wallace Collection is in Hertford House in Manchester Square, London and is open every day from 10am to 5pm. Admission to the museum, including the exhibition, is free.

1 comment:

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