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Reynolds, Joshua (British, b.1723, d.1792), Artist
Maria, Countess Waldegrave
1764-1765
Oil on canvas
915 x 715 mm stretcher size; 1230 x 1025 mm frame size
4-1947
Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Purchased 1947 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society through the National Art Collections Fund, London.
By the time he reached his teens, Joshua Reynolds was set on becoming a painter. After studying in London and Italy, he exhibited his dramatic portrait of Augustus, Viscount Keppel (1753–1754), to immediate acclaim. By 1760 he was the most sought after portraitist in London. He was the first President of the Royal Academy of the Arts, founded in 1768, and expounded the ‘rules of art’ in his fifteen influential Discourses on Art.
Reynolds employed many assistants yet his work has proved at times to have certain technical deficiencies. For instance, the carmine (a pinkish-red pigment) he chose to use for flesh tones, has faded, so that some of his sitters look unnaturally pale, as is the case with the Countess Waldegrave in this painting.
Born in 1739, she was the illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and a niece of Horace Walpole. She married James, the 2nd Earl Waldegrave, in 1759. Following his death only four years later, she secretly married the king’s brother, William Henry, the Duke of Gloucester. Reynolds painted her many times. There are at least three portraits of her in this pose; the renowned authority Ellis Waterhouse believed Dunedin’s version to be ‘the first rate original’.

not on view

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