Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Alfred Drury, R.A., 1856-1944.

1931

Bronze

Forecourt of Burlington House (in front of the Royal Academy), off Piccadilly, London

This statue, which was erected with money from the Leighton Fund, honours the artist who was a founding member of the Royal Academy, and its first president. Alfred Drury's model for it won the commission over Derwent Wood's in a competition held in 1917 (Read 345); but it took Drury many years to complete the work.

Reynolds is shown in a rather balletic pose, standing poised in front of an unseen canvas, paintbrush raised, palette and more brushes in his left hand. Prominently placed, the bronze on its stone pedastel makes an arresting and appropriate greeting to the gallery's many visitors — including those who come for the famous Summer Exhibitions, held under the RA's auspices for more than two centuries now (see Weinreb et al. 705).

Compare this work with the more naturalistic and relaxed statue of Millais by Sir Thomas Brock, now at the back of Tate Britain. Is it fair to say that in the latter, the emphasis is more on the character of the man, than on his effect as an artist? Are there inevitably differences between sculpting a figure from recent memory, and sculpting one from likenesses produced in the past?

Photograph, caption and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee, 2009.

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