Sir Joshua Reynolds' MS

Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries vol. VI, (January 1910 to October 1911), p. 214.



Prepared by Michael Steer

Reynolds, who was born in Plympton St Mary in 1723, worked seven days a week for 9 months of the year and in total painted over 2000 portraits, nearly 30 are self-portraits, three quarters of these made after 1766 when honours started to pour in. By 1758 Reynolds had 150 sitters a year. In 1764 he was earning the then enormous sum of £6,000 a year. In his business-like Journal for 1765 (now in the R.A. library), he records the standard price for portraits, ranging from 150 guineas for a full length, 70 guineas for a half-length, to 30 guineas for a head. His work ethic was such that on the day he was knighted (21st April 1769), at St James’s Palace he also fitted in two sittings with clients. Reynolds’ characteristics as a man of reason, calculation and evenness of temper, were admired by Gainsborough who often wondered at Reynolds’ equal application. By contrast if we imagine commissioning a portrait by Gainsborough we would have found a different set of circumstances. Gainsborough once wrote to a patron who was ‘damnably out of humour about his Pictures not being finished’: “I wish you would recollect that Painting & Punctuality mix like Oil and Vinegar, and that Genius & regularity are utter Enemies, and must be to the end of Time”. The Note provides information relating to the purchase and ownership of some of his pocket books and letters. The article, from a copy of a rare and much sought-after journal can be downloaded from the Internet Archive. Google has sponsored the digitisation of books from several libraries. These books, on which copyright has expired, are available for free educational and research use, both as individual books and as full collections to aid researchers.

Note 199. SIR JOSHUA REYNOLDS' MS. NOTES (VI., par. 140, p. 151). -  Mr. Alex N. Radcliffe, a descendant of Sir Joshua Reynolds' sister, has kindly informed us that some of the Reynolds' Manuscripts which formerly belonged to Mr. R. G. Gwatkin, of Potterne, Wilts, were sold to Mr. Algernon Graves of Old Bond St. Twenty-seven of Sir Joshua's pocket books now belong to the Royal Academy; some of the manuscripts formerly in the possession of Mr. Reynolds Palmer are now in the British Museum, and others are preserved by the Misses Yonge, of Rockbourne, Salisbury. Sir Robert Edgcumbe, of Dale Lodge, Sunningdale, has a first edition of the " Discourses," with Sir Joshua's notes and corrections, and it is possible that Mr. J. H. M. Furse, of Netherton House, Salisbury, also has in his possession some relics of the great painter.                                   Eds.