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David Mannings

(b Plympton, Devon, July 16, 1723; d London, Feb 23, 1792).

English painter, collector and writer. The foremost portrait painter in England in the 18th century, he transformed early Georgian portraiture by greatly enlarging its range. His poses, frequently based on the Old Masters or antique sculpture, were intended to invoke classical values and to enhance the dignity of his sitters. His rich colour, strong lighting and free handling of paint greatly influenced the generation of Thomas Lawrence and Henry Raeburn. His history and fancy pictures explored dramatic and emotional themes that became increasingly popular with both artists and collectors in the Romantic period. As first president of the Royal Academy in London, he did more than anyone to raise the status of art and artists in Britain. His Discourses on Art, delivered to the students and members of the Academy between 1769 and 1790, are the most eloquent and widely respected body of art criticism by any English writer.

Although Reynolds’s father, a fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, and master of Plympton Grammar School, had intended that his son train as an apothecary, Joshua chose instead to seek fame as a painter. In ...


David Rodgers

Aesthetic concept, originating in Classical Greece, that was the subject of considerable philosophical debate in 18th-century Europe and that re-emerged in the late 20th century as a central factor in the study of aesthetics. The literary treatise On the Sublime (1st century ad), traditionally ascribed to Longinus, was a major influence on 18th-century writers on taste. In essence, Longinus defined the Sublime as differing from beauty and evoking more intense emotions by vastness, a quality that inspires awe. Whereas beauty may be found in the small, the smooth, the light and the everyday, the Sublime is vast, irregular, obscure and superhuman. The term entered 18th-century discourse by way of literary theory and criticism, such as Grounds of Criticism in Poetry (1704) by John Dennis (1657–1734), and Joseph Addison’s Spectator essays, The Pleasures of the Imagination (1711). It soon came to be applied to visual art by, among others, ...