Sir Joshua Reynolds's subject pictures were among the most widely discussed British paintings of the eighteenth century. Today Reynolds's reputation rests principally on his portraits, his theoretical writings on art and his role as president of the Royal Academy. But while he could complete the face of a portrait-sitter in a matter of hours, his subject paintings often occupied him for months or even years, and it is clear from Reynolds's own preoccupation with them, and the critical coverage they received during his day, that the subject pictures lay at the very heart of Reynolds's practice as a painter. In this, the first book to be devoted to this aspect of Reynolds's work, the subject pictures are shown as playing a vital role in shaping attitudes to high art during the major transitions in British culture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
"The author has conducted exhaustive research in a wide range of historical and literary sources, and he makes particularly good use of the numerous contemporary reviews and commentaries in the public press...Postle's book is a significant addition to Reynold's scholarship...Postle deserves credit for the clarity of his jargon-free prose and the thoroughness of his research which will serve to provides the groundwork for any future study of the development of history painting in Britain." Albion