Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sketch for ‘The 4th Duke of Marlborough and his Family’

c.1777

Artist
Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 552 x 508 mm
frame: 761 x 719 x 85 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Bequeathed by Henry Vaughan 1900
Reference
N01840

Not on display

Display caption

Reynolds rarely made preliminary sketches even for complex compositions. But the magnificent group of the family of the Duke of Marlborough, which still dominates the Red Drawing Room at Blenheim Palace, was clearly an exception. Conceived in the grandest traditions of Rubens and Van Dyck, it was to influence society portraiture into this century. This sketch shows the painter struggling with the problem of integrating the solemn splendour of the adults with a more modern, relaxed informality preferred for young children and dogs. The end result shows brilliantly the range of Reynolds's wit and originality as a portraitist.

Gallery label, September 2004

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