The Experiments Of Joshua Reynolds At The Wallace Collection
Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆
Joshua Reynolds is a major figure in the history of British painting, the first president of the Royal Academy of Arts and an influential portraitist. His paintings of wealthy sitters made him very fashionable at the time but we might ask now: what else is there left to reveal? The Wallace Collection has conducted some thorough research over the last four years and used x-rays to uncover additional insights into his paintings.
But any fears of this being a dull, academic exhibition are quickly dismissed as the findings reveal interesting facts such as how a woman's hairstyle in one painting was changed as the fashion of the time dictated. Likewise, with a self-portrait of Reynolds shading his eyes — we learn that he didn't like his first effort so flipped the canvas upside down and painted over it.
It's a scholarly show but there are plenty of Reynolds' portraits that really stand out. His picture of the recently-widowed Countess of Lincoln shows her lost in her own thoughts, while elsewhere a mother's gaze on her child is filled with expressive adoration. The portraits of children show the artist's different sides: in one work a cherubic little girl hugs her dog with such strength that she's in danger of strangling it, while his 'strawberry girl' looks ghostly and almost alien.
Reynolds is often viewed by contemporary art goers as not terribly exciting, but this small and free research-oriented exhibition manages to shine a new light on his work and make Reynolds relevant to a modern audience.
Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint is on at The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, W1U 3BN until 7 June. Admission to the exhibition and the permanent collection is free.
Last Updated 18 March 2015