Grand manner is an English term used widely from the eighteenth century to describe what was considered to be the highest style of art in academic theory – a style based on an idealised, classical approach

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  • Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers' 1769
    Sir Joshua Reynolds
    Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers 1769
    Oil on canvas
    unconfirmed: 2360 x 1800 mm
    Purchased (Building the Tate Collection fund) with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, Tate Members, the Art Fund (with a contribution from the Wolfson Foundation) and other donors 2005
  • Benjamin West, 'Lady Beauchamp-Proctor' 1778
    Benjamin West
    Lady Beauchamp-Proctor 1778
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1264 x 1003 mm

    Presented by the daughters of Maj-Gen. G.E.H. Beauchamp through the Art Fund 1941
  • John Hamilton Mortimer, 'Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man (from Spenser's 'Faerie Queene')' exhibited 1778
    John Hamilton Mortimer
    Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man (from Spenser's 'Faerie Queene') exhibited 1778

The term grand manner was given currency by Sir Joshua Reynolds and extensively discussed in his Discourses on Art – fifteen lectures delivered to students at Royal Academy between 1769 and 1790. Reynolds argued that painters should not slavishly copy nature but seek a generalised and ideal form. This ‘gives what is called the grand style to invention, to composition, to expression, and even to colouring and drapery’ (Fourth Discourse). In practice it meant drawing on the style of ancient Greek and Roman (classical) art and the Italian Renaissance masters such as Raphael.

Grand manner was strictly used for history painting, but Reynolds adapted it very successfully to portraiture, inventing the high art portrait.