Sir Joshua Reynolds

Self-Portrait as a Deaf Man


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On loan

Royal West of England Academy (Bristol, UK): Me, Myself, I: Artists' Self-Portraits

Sir Joshua Reynolds 1723–1792
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 759 × 634 mm
frame: 946 × 813 × 105 mm
Bequeathed by Miss Emily Drummond 1930

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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

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