Sir Joshua Reynolds

Self-Portrait as a Deaf Man

c.1775

Artist
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 749 x 622 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Miss Emily Drummond 1930
Reference
N04505

Not on display

Display caption

Creating self-portraits in character or pulling a face was a traditional form of student exercise. But this image was created when the painter was the most famous artist of the age. Instead of an experiment, it seems to be a more considered statement.

Reynolds may have focused on his own struggle to hear (he went deaf in later years) as a way of expressing the artist’s struggle to create an image from his raw materials. In his lectures on art, delivered at the Royal Academy, Reynolds stressed the arduous, and thus morally uplifting, nature of art.

Gallery label, August 2004