The Wallace Collection is to offer a fresh perspective on the work of a towering figure of British painting, Joshua Reynolds. Although widely regarded as one of the most important and influential painters of the period, Reynolds’s reputation as an ‘establishment’ artist masks his unquenchable thirst for innovation and his experimental approach to the practice and materials of painting. The exhibition explores Reynolds’s painting techniques, pictorial compositions and narratives through the display of 20 paintings, archival sources and x-ray images.
Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint will draw upon the significant works within the Wallace Collection and major loans from the UK, other European countries and the USA, all chosen to reveal Reynolds’s compositional and narrative experimentation and his unorthodox choice of materials, admixtures of paint and complex layering techniques.
The exhibition reveals discoveries made during a four-year research project into the outstanding collection of twelve Reynolds paintings at the Wallace Collection. With support from the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, TEFAF, the Hertford House Trust, various private donors, and Trusts and drawing on the research expertise of the National Gallery in London and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, the exhibition spans most of Reynolds’s career and includes portraits, ‘fancy’ pictures and history painting.
On display will be celebrated portraits such as Nelly O’Brien (c.1762 – c.1764), Mrs Abington as Miss Prue (1771) and Reynolds’s own Self Portrait Shading the Eyes (1747-1749) together with experimental studies and a canvas showing how Reynolds observed the effects of different combinations of colour and media.
Collectively, alongside the hidden stories behind the paintings, archive resources and x-ray-images, the exhibition demonstrates the diversity of Reynolds’s artistic production, his highly original approach to image-making, composition and narrative, and prompts us to review opinions and perceptions of this truly experimental artist.
Joshua Reynolds: Experiments in Paint – The Wallace Collection – 12 March – 7 June 2015