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Seven Discourses on Art   By: (1723-1792)

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In Seven Discourses on Art, Joshua Reynolds presents a captivating analysis of the world of art, offering enlightening insights and thought-provoking arguments. Reynolds, a highly respected 18th-century portrait painter and the first President of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, skillfully combines his vast knowledge and personal experiences to delve into the complexities of artistic creation.

Through seven meticulously crafted discourses, Reynolds addresses a wide range of topics relevant to both artists and art enthusiasts. His prose, while occasionally dense, is insightful and engaging. One particularly impressive aspect of Reynolds' writing is his ability to seamlessly blend theory with practical advice. He explores the technical aspects of painting, the significance of originality versus imitation, and the importance of understanding the great masterpieces of the past.

The discourses extend far beyond mere technical guidance and delve into the deeper meaning and purpose of art. Reynolds tackles the concept of aesthetic beauty, emphasizing the importance of capturing not only a likeness but also the essence and character of the subject. He argues for the value of imagination and creativity, challenging artists to go beyond mere replication and truly express their unique vision.

One of the standout features of Seven Discourses on Art is Reynolds' art historical insights, as he draws upon examples of renowned artists and their works to illustrate his points. His extensive knowledge of art history not only adds depth and credibility to his arguments, but it also invites readers to further explore the rich tapestry of artistic heritage.

One minor flaw in the book is Reynolds' occasional tendency towards verbosity. Some passages could benefit from more concise and direct language, as they risk overwhelming readers with excessive detail. Nonetheless, this flaw is easily forgiven due to the overall quality of the content and the author's evident passion for his subject.

Overall, Seven Discourses on Art is an essential read for anyone interested in the theory and practice of art. Reynolds' articulate exploration of various artistic concepts and his use of historical examples make this book a valuable resource for both aspiring artists and those seeking a deeper understanding of the artistic process. Through his compelling arguments, Reynolds encourages artists to strive for greatness, to push boundaries, and to embrace their artistic freedom.

First Page:



It is a happy memory that associates the foundation of our Royal Academy with the delivery of these inaugural discourses by Sir Joshua Reynolds, on the opening of the schools, and at the first annual meetings for the distribution of its prizes. They laid down principles of art from the point of view of a man of genius who had made his power felt, and with the clear good sense which is the foundation of all work that looks upward and may hope to live. The truths here expressed concerning Art may, with slight adjustment of the way of thought, be applied to Literature or to any exercise of the best powers of mind for shaping the delights that raise us to the larger sense of life. In his separation of the utterance of whole truths from insistance upon accidents of detail, Reynolds was right, because he guarded the expression of his view with careful definitions of its limits. In the same way Boileau was right, as a critic of Literature, in demanding everywhere good sense, in condemning the paste brilliants of a style then in decay, and fixing attention upon the masterly simplicity of Roman poets in the time of Augustus. Critics by rule of thumb reduced the principles clearly defined by Boileau to a dull convention, against which there came in course of time a strong reaction... Continue reading book >>

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