"Sir Joshua Reynolds was born at Plympton, in South Devon, in 1723, and was educated at the grammar school in his native town, of which his father was the headmaster. At a very early age. He displayed a great genius for drawing, so much so that his father placed him with Hudson, at that time is celebrated portrait painter in London. Having been with him for a while, young Reynolds resolved to go to Italy, in order to study the works of the old Masters, and selected those of Michael Angelo, Raphael and Titian, all of which attracted his admiration, and greatly assisted to make him one of our most eminent painters.
Reynolds returned to London in 1753, and was soon considered the first of English portrait painters. The good education which he received from his father, and his gentlemanly bearing, soon gained him a place amongst the distinguished men of the day.
His works of art are most remarkable for giving to the portraits which he painted, the almost life like air and attitude of the person before him. He was unanimously elected the first president of the Royal Academy in 1768. To the members of this noble institution. he yearly delivered lectures on the art of painting, of the most instructive and interesting character, which greatly raised him in the estimation of his hearers. In the year 1773, the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him, and in 1784, the King appointed him. his principal portrait painter, at which time he was knighted. His portraits are very numerous; the National Gallery alone contains 14, amongst which is admirable likeness of himself, painted with his own hand, and considered the most beautiful work of art.
Burke has paid just tribute to Sir Joshua Reynolds; he says. "He had too much merit to excite much jealousy, too much innocence to provoke enmities." He died in 1792, and was buried in St Pauls Cathedral, where a monument by Flaxman is erected to his memory."