I was asked to give a lecture at the Barber Institute who have mounted a small, but choice display about Joshua Reynolds and his collection to celebrate the RA’s 250th. anniversary. Most people think of Reynolds only as a fashionable portrait painter, but he was also a passionate student of the history of art, hauntimg the auction rooms and buying work not least to strip them down and find out how they were painted. There’s a drawing attributed to Tintoretto with his collector’s mark clearly visible:-
Next door is a painting which Reynolds thought (most likely, wrongly) was by Rubens of his second wife, Hélène Fourment (also wrongly).
Then an early work, when he was a jobbing artist in Devonport:-
The Rev. William Beele, also from the late 1749s, when he went to Italy (what a vast improvement):-
The Gideon children, painted in the mid-1780s, for which he was paid £300, a huge sum:-
Then it was closing time.