Facing the Sea: Joshua Reynolds, Artistic Enterprise and Eighteenth-Century Port Cities

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10 December 2019 | 5.15pm - 6.30pm
Central London
Maritime History & Culture Seminars

Join us for a free talk (and mince pies) in central London on portraiture and port cities in the eighteenth century by Dr Katherine Gazzard. 

After two years training as a portrait painter in London, Joshua Reynolds returned to his hometown of Plymouth in 1743. Still in his early 20s, he would paint dozens of portraits over the next five years before leaving for the Mediterranean. The busy naval port provided a springboard for this young and then little-known artist, who would later achieve lasting fame and become the first President of the Royal Academy.

In an era of expanding global trade and colonial empires, the ports and dockyards of eighteenth-century Britain were not only bustling sites of industry and commerce but also of culture and art. Dr Katherine Gazzard will examine the small but important group of artists and craftsmen who worked in ports and specialised in producing portraits. Ranging from large-scale paintings to delicate miniatures and cut-paper silhouettes, their artworks depicted naval officers and other important members of the local community. Some of these pieces served as sentimental souvenirs for the families of seafarers, while others helped to cement the social status and political influence of those they depicted.

How did eighteenth-century ports influence the form and function of portraits? How did Reynolds’s time in Plymouth shape his future career? How did the seafaring experiences of his subjects inspire him to undertake his own creative adventures in paint?

Seminars start at 5.15pm in Wolfson NB01, Senate House, London, WC1 7HU. All are welcome and there is no need to book.

Find out more about our Maritime History and Culture Seminars