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Sir Joshua Reynolds Legacy

Sir Joshua Reynolds died in London on 23 February 1792. His body lay in state for a day at Somerset House. His funeral took place at St Paul's Cathedral.

At the time of his passing he was England's foremost portrait painter having painted, according to estimates, more than 2,000 portraits during his lifetime. A few years later, in 1813, a grand memorial by sculptor John Flaxman was erected in St Paul's and a huge exhibition of his work was held at the British Institution.

But Reynolds was so much more than a painter and perhaps this is his greatest legacy. As a published author, art collector, Knight of the Realm and President of the Royal Academy he was a man who worked tirelessly to raise the standing of the fine arts in Britain.

In 'naturalising the noble tradition of the grand Italian style on British soil' he created the British Artistic Tradition. Perhaps more importantly though, by raising the profile of British painters he ensured that artists were (and still are) accepted in society just like the leading writers of the day. His efforts meant that artists were seen as people who had a profession rather than just a hobby.

Ultimately, Reynolds believed that study and hard work were the keys to greatness. He believed that an average painter, such as he modestly called himself, could 'acquire genius' if he or she studied the work of great artists and applied their techniques to their own work.

By re-interpreting the style of the grand masters of the past he not only inspired future generations but never stopped improving his own work. In doing so he became someone that Plymouth could and should be proud of.

 Reynolds Self Portrait © PCMAG