Art Term

Grand manner

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

Sir Joshua Reynolds, ‘Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers’ 1769
Sir Joshua Reynolds
Colonel Acland and Lord Sydney: The Archers 1769

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.

Related terms and concepts

  • History painting

    The term history painting was introduced in the seventeenth century to describe paintings with subject matter drawn from classical history ...

  • Renaissance

    French word meaning rebirth, now used in English to describe the great revival of art that took place in Italy ...

  • Portrait

    A portrait is a representation of a particular person. A self-portrait is a portrait of the artist by the artist

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