Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait sketch of David Garrick (1717-79), c.1760 

Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA (1723-92)

Portrait sketch of David Garrick (1717-79), c.1760, Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA
Oil on paper, laid on canvas
18th Century
11 x 9 in (28 x 23 cm)
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Although there is no immediate evidence beyond style linking this remarkable portrait sketch -which has always been identified as David Garrick, and which accords well with the likeness of him captured by Reynolds and others- with Sir Joshua Reynolds, it is hard to find another artist who might demonstrate the same fluid confidence in the handling of paint or who might so readily suggest movement and animation in their subject at this date. Equally, Reynolds is perhaps the only artist who enjoyed sufficient intimacy with the actor -they were friends and both members of Dr Johnson's Club- to produce such an informal work. It does not appear to have been a study for any known painting, but rather, executed on paper rather than on canvas, to have been a spontaneous study. We cannot know the moment of its execution, but it is tempting to believe that it might have been captured during an animated conversation in the Johnson circle, or during one of the actor's famous recitations.
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