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'Celebrity' as we know it today has its roots in the 18th century and Reynolds capitalised on this.

He recognised the power of the printed press and frequently appeared in their gossip columns. The printing of images enabled him to reach newer, broader audiences and he worked with the best engravers to produce over 400 'official' prints in his lifetime.

He chose his friends tactically too, making the most of the new social mobility that the intellectual societies and clubs of his day offered. He established his own 'Literary Club' in 1764 which had poets, writers and actors amongst its members and his mansion in the popular area of Leicester Fields (today’s Leicester Square) became a centre for London’s intellectual and social circles.

Besides his club friends, he also sought out commissions from notable politicians, philosophers and powerful families.

Reynolds' combination of well-known, popular subjects, classical symbols and styles and speedy, cheap reproductions was a winning formula which helped to boost his own fame just as much as the celebrity status of the people he painted. In 1769 he was knighted and in 1784 he finally succeeded where he had previously failed and took over from Allan Ramsay as Painter to the King. He continued to paint until 1789, ceasing to work after this due to failing eyesight.

 Edward Boscawen © National Portrait Gallery, London