Born in rural Devon, Joshua Reynolds’s remarkable artistic ability led him to a glittering career painting the rich and famous of the 18th century. He was elected the first president of the Royal Academy in 1768 and frequently exhibited his work there. This exposure made his work well known, and many of his paintings were reproduced in popular prints.
Reynolds’s great success spurred him to establish a large studio in London, which his clients would often visit on multiple occasions to sit for portraits. He employed numerous studio assistants to help him with the large quantity of commissions he received. Some of these specialised in preparing and painting certain elements of paintings for Reynolds, such as clothing and drapery.
Reynolds was a contemporary of Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford (1718–1794) from 1793, who was to become an enthusiastic patron, commissioning from him several portraits of his family. His descendants continued to assemble the paintings by Reynolds we find at the Wallace Collection today: portraits of Georgian celebrities, and fancy pictures of children that retained their popularity throughout the 19th century. The result is a fascinating collection that spans Reynolds’s career, in a range of formats and subject matter.