Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Strawberry Girl 1810c.

Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, Circle of 1723 - 1792

Strawberry Girl, Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA, Circle of
Oil on canvas
18th Century
14 x 11 1/4 inches 35 x 28.5 cm
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This highly accomplished copy of one of Reynolds’ most famous subject pictures captures perfectly the innocent charm of Reynolds’ prime version [Wallace Collection, London]. The Strawberry Girl was one of the most admired eighteenth century subject pictures. Small copies such as this example would have been produced by Reynolds’ studio assistants, as well as other artists in schools such as the Royal Academy, to study the master’s technique in drawing, application of colour, and of course his bold use of impasto to impart movement and depth in the drapery and hair.

Strawberry girls were a common sight in eighteenth century London, as girls from poor families attempted to make money selling the fruit on street corners and ‘Strawberry Gardens’. Reynolds painted the subject on several occasions, and exhibited the picture at the Royal Academy in 1773. He considered the painting to be, according to his pupil James Northcote, not only “one of his best works”, but one of only half a dozen really original works that any artist could paint during their entire career.

There has been much debate on the Reynolds’ inspiration for the picture – was he, it has been suggested, attempting to highlight the plight of strawberry girls? Though many of Reynolds’ subject pictures are single-figure studies of children, it is most likely that Reynolds was more interested in the flexibility such pictures afforded him. Without the constrains of a portrait commission, or the inescapable distractions of a model, Reynolds could concentrate on the study of character and composition, and experiment with new techniques and approaches.
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