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Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723–1792
Joshua Reynolds archive, 1749-1816.
Physical Description:
1 linear foot
Rare Books and Manuscripts
MSS 30
Yale Center for British Art, Gift of Frederick W. Hilles
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Copyright Status:
Copyright Not Evaluated
Related Content:
View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid of related material in the Frederick W. Hilles Manuscript Collection at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
View a description and listing of collection contents in the finding aid
Archives & Manuscripts
The collection is open without restriction.
The letters are transcribed in: The letters of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Edited by John Ingamells and John Edgcumbe. New Haven : Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2000.
Additional material from the Hilles collection of Reynolds material is now in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Yale Center for British Art. Records for this material may be accessed in the YCBA's online catalog (http://http://britishart.yale.edu/collections/search). A portion of the Hilles collection of Reynolds material is now at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Yale University), in the Frederick W. Hilles Manuscript Collection (http://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.hilles).
Beginning in 1760, when he leased a large house at 47 Leicester Square, Reynolds exhibited with the Society of Artists but eventually distanced himself from the squabbles that increasingly divided the members from their committee. He also hesitated before accepting the invitation to become the first President of a rival "Academy" that was founded in 1768 with patronage of King George III. As President, Reynolds was knighted in April 1769, an honor that was not without precedent but that signaled Reynolds's certain preeminence in the institutional art world of London. In the Discourses he delivered as President, Reynolds set out the principles to which a great national school of art should adhere, ennobled by poetry and eloquence, intellectual dignity, and the purity of the so-called great style of Michelangelo, Raphael, and the Florentine-Roman tradition of disegno.
Frederick Whiley Hilles (1900-1975) was a longtime professor of English at Yale University and editor of works on Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and Joshua Reynolds. Hilles collected correspondence and other manuscript writings by James Boswell, Thomas Carlyle, Samuel Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and members of their families. Most of this material is now at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (Yale University), in the Frederick W. Hilles Manuscript Collection. Hilles's Reynolds collection was featured (along with material from other collections) in An exhibition of books, manuscripts & prints pertaining to Sir Joshua Reynolds, on the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his birth (Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, 1973). A portion of Hilles's Reynolds material now forms the present collection at the Yale Center for British Art.
In the 1770s and 1780s, Reynolds's portrait subjects included most of the great men and women of the age: how own good friend Dr. Samuel Johnson, the king and queen, Sir Joseph Banks, James Boswell, Oliver Goldsmith, David Garrick, and others. He created a sideline in imaginitive portrait studies of children, known as "fancy pictures," and also experimented with history painting. As Reynolds aged, he showed an increasing awareness of and interest in Dutch art and continued to be showered with honors, both domestic and foreign. In old age, the deafness he blamed on a chill he said he caught in the Sistin Chapel got worse (but that, like his harelip, was probably hereditary); in addition, his eyesight deterioated. Although he was immensely self-important, and to that extent personally vain, in his marvelous self-portraits Reynolds freely acknowledged the existence of all three maladies, most obviously the harelip, but also his ear trumpet and spectacles, while other artists in their portraits of him rarely acknowledged their existence. After his death in 1792, Reynolds's body was attended by ten pallbearers, among whom were three dukes, two marquesses, three earls, and cortege of ninety-one carriages.
There has never been a time when Joshua Reynolds was not regarded as one of the great men of the Enlightenment in England and a portrait and history painter of tremendous versatility, inventiveness, originality, and ambition. Reynolds was the seventh of the ten or eleven children of a schoolmaster and his wife, both of whose families were abundant with Church of England clergymen. Showing prodigious talent as a boy, he was apprenticed for four years to the London portrait painter Thomas Hudson of Lincoln's Inn Fields, before establishing a burgeoning portrait practice in London and Plymouth. In 1749-50, Reynolds traveled to Italy and France by way of Spain and Morocco. In Rome he copied the Old Masters, for eighteen months scouring the city's churches princely art collections and working his way back across the Continent, similarly absorbing a host of artistic exampla. Upon his return to London, Reynolds resumed his portrait practice and achieved rapid commercial and critical success, although the failure of some of his experiments with certain fugitive pigments and varnishes was soon apparent.
The collection comprises correspondence, notebooks, writings, and other manuscript material by or about the artist Joshua Reynolds. Correspondents include Francis Barton Abington, Carl Fredrik Adelcrantz, John Bacon, Joseph Banks, Edmund Burke, Sir William Hamilton, John Hely-Hutchinson, Henry Hope, Hendrik Jansen, Samuel Johnson, William Johnson, Bennet Langton, Elizabeth Montagu, Thomas Percy, William Roscoe, Charles Manners, Duke of Rutland, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, F.G. Waldron, Benjamin West, and Pieter Yver. Several of the notebooks record Reynolds's travels on the Continent, with notes on paintings seen in France, Germany, and the Low Countries. Among the writings are Reynolds's thoughts on blindness, fragments of his Discourses, and notes on Pliny and Johnson. Some of the material throughout the collection concerns Reynolds's tenure as the first president of the Royal Academy.
The collection is arranged into four series: I. Correspondence; II. Commonplace books, notebooks, and diaries; III. Writings; and IV. Miscellaneous.
Subject Terms:
Abington, Mrs. (Frances Barton), 1737-1815 -- Correspondence.
Adelcrantz, Carl Fredrik, 1716-1796 -- Correspondence.
Antwerp (Belgium) -- Description and travel.
Bacon, John, 1740-1799 -- Correspondence.
Banks, Joseph, 1743-1820 -- Correspondence.
Beaumont, George Howland, Sir, 1753-1827.
Belgium -- Description and travel.
Breda, C. F. von (Carl Fredrik), 1759-1818.
Brussels (Belgium) -- Description and travel.
Burke, Edmund, 1729-1797 -- Correspondence.
Burke, Jane Mary Nugent, 1734-1812.
Catherine II, Empress of Russia, 1729-1796 -- Art collections.
Doughty, William, 1757-1780 or 1782.
Dufresnoy, Charles-Alphonse, 1611-1668.
Gainsborough, Thomas, 1727-1788.
Germany -- Description and travel.
Gwatkin, Theophila Palmer, 1757-1848.
Hamilton, William, 1751-1801 -- Correspondence.
Haughton, Moses, 1773-1849.
Hely-Hutchinson, John, 1724-1794 -- Correspondence.
Hope, Henry, 1735 or 1736-1811 -- Correspondence.
Hudson, Thomas, 1701-1779.
Jansen, Hendrik, 1741-1812 -- Correspondence.
Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784. Correspondence.
Johnson, William, d. 1779 -- Correspondence.
Langton, Bennet, 1737-1801 -- Correspondence.
Mason, William, 1725-1797.
Meyer, Henry Hoppner, 1783-1847.
Meyer, Jeremiah, 1735-1789.
Milton, John, 1608-1674.
Montagu, Mrs. (Elizabeth), 1718-1800 -- Correspondence.
Netherlands -- Description and travel.
Painting, European.
Palmer, Joseph, 1749-1829.
Paris (France) -- Description and travel.
Percy, Thomas, 1729-1811. Correspondence.
Pope, Alexander, 1688-1744.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792 -- Diaries.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792 -- Notebooks, sketchbooks, etc.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792. Correspondence.
Reynolds, Joshua, Sir, 1723-1792. Discourses.
Roscoe, William, 1753-1831 -- Correspondence.
Rotterdam (Netherlands) -- Description and travel.
Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain)
Rubens, Peter Paul, 1577-1640.
Rutland, Charles Manners, Duke of, 1754-1787 -- Correspondence.
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Sheridan, Elizabeth Ann, 1754-1792.
Sheridan, Richard Brinsley, 1751-1816 -- Correspondence.
Tarleton, Lieutenant-General (Banastre), 1754-1833.
Titian, approximately 1488-1576.
Upper Ossory, Anne Fitzpatrick, Countess of, 1737 or 8-1804 -- Correspondence.
Upper Ossory, John Fitzpatrick, Earl of, 1745-1818.
Waldron, F. G. (Francis Godolphin), 1744-1818 -- Correspondence.
West, Benjamin, 1738-1820 -- Correspondence.
Yver, P. (Pieter) -- Correspondence.
Commonplace books.
Hilles, Frederick W. (Frederick Whiley), 1900-1975, collector.
Hope, Henry, 1735 or 1736-1811.
Jansen, Hendrik, 1741-1812.
Johnson, Samuel, 1709-1784.
Montagu, Mrs. (Elizabeth), 1718-1800.
Rutland, Charles Manners, Duke of, 1754-1787.
West, Benjamin, 1738-1820.
Yver, P. (Pieter)

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