Seven Discourses on Art by Sir Joshua Reynolds


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Page 1

In 1753 Reynolds came back to England, and stayed three months in
Devonshire before setting up a studio in London, in St. Martin's Lane,
which was then an artists' quarter. His success was rapid. In 1755 he
had one hundred and twenty-five sitters. Samuel Johnson found in him his
most congenial friend. He moved to Newport Street, and he built himself
a studio--where there is now an auction room--at 47, Lincoln's Inn
Fields. There he remained for life.

In 1760 the artists opened, in a room lent by the Society of Arts, a free
Exhibition for the sale of their works. This was continued the next year
at Spring Gardens, with a charge of a shilling for admission. In 1765
they obtained a charter of incorporation, and in 1768 the King gave his
support to the foundation of a Royal Academy of Arts by seceders from the
preceding "Incorporated Society of Artists," into which personal feelings
had brought much division. It was to consist, like the French Academy,
of forty members, and was to maintain Schools open to all students of
good character who could give evidence that they had fully learnt the
rudiments of Art. The foundation by the King dates from the 10th of
December, 1768. The Schools were opened on the 2nd of January next
following, and on that occasion Joshua Reynolds, who had been elected
President--his age was then between forty-five and forty-six--gave the
Inaugural Address which formed the first of these Seven Discourses. The
other six were given by him, as President, at the next six annual
meetings: and they were all shaped to form, when collected into a volume,
a coherent body of good counsel upon the foundations of the painter's

H. M.


The regular progress of cultivated life is from necessaries to
accommodations, from accommodations to ornaments. By your illustrious
predecessors were established marts for manufactures, and colleges for
science; but for the arts of elegance, those arts by which manufactures
are embellished and science is refined, to found an academy was reserved
for your Majesty.

Had such patronage been without effect, there had been reason to believe
that nature had, by some insurmountable impediment, obstructed our
proficiency; but the annual improvement of the exhibitions which your
Majesty has been pleased to encourage shows that only encouragement had
been wanting.

To give advice to those who are contending for royal liberality has been
for some years the duty of my station in the Academy; and these
Discourses hope for your Majesty's acceptance as well-intended endeavours
to incite that emulation which your notice has kindled, and direct those
studies which your bounty has rewarded.

May it please your Majesty,
Your Majesty's
Most dutiful servant,
And most faithful subject,


Gentlemen,--That you have ordered the publication of this Discourse is
not only very flattering to me, as it implies your approbation of the
method of study which I have recommended; but likewise, as this method
receives from that act such an additional weight and authority as demands
from the students that deference and respect, which can be due only to
the united sense of so considerable a body of artists.

I am,
With the greatest esteem and respect,
Your most humble
And obedient servant,

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 23rd Aug 2019, 16:05