Published  10/06/2005

Sycophantic Toady

Three cheers for Brian Sewell who, in the Evening Standard of 20 May 2005, used the above expression to put a lid on the obsequious Sir Joshua Reynolds. In the first years of the 20th century, the collapsed market in Reynolds's vanities revived with the insatiable (but temporary) demand of American collectors for passable, assumable ancestors from Britain. The Reynolds 'factory' had reached a zenith in delivering swathes of painted finery, curtains, vases, tiny dogs that relieved themselves backstage (presumably) and any other props that could be let in. But, there are always exceptions to prove the rule and Reynolds's erstwhile subject contact from Italy, Viscount Augustus Keppel, was acceptable and masterly; Keppel is even painted on the trot to greater things, as was his wont. Nowadays, in the realm of later paparazzi, we can see through the aura of Joshua in a way that his distinguished contemporaries could not achieve themselves.

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