A new blue plaque highlighting a special link with celebrated 18th century portrait artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds has been unveiled at Devonport Market Hall on the 298th anniversary of his birth.
Reynolds was born in Plympton St Maurice on July 16, 1723 and his artistic ability was clear from an early age. In 1740, with the support of his family he moved to London to be apprenticed by well-known Exeter-born portrait painter, Thomas Hudson.
After three years learning his trade Reynolds returned to Devon. His time in the capital had equipped him with the skills to set himself up as a portrait painter and he quickly began to attract customers.
By 1745, he was running a studio in Plymouth Dock – the area now known as Devonport. Dock was the centre of the British Navy at the time and Reynolds painted the portraits of many senior ranking officers. It was the start of a career that would see him become one of the foremost portrait painters of his time.
The new plaque, which has been organised by The Box and Real Ideas with the support of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, is located next to the main entrance of the Market Hall’s café on Mildren Way and highlights the fact that Reynolds was active in the Devonport area from 1743-1749.
Left to right: Lindsey Hall, CEO, Real Ideas; Michael Moore, former Chair of the former Friends of PCMAG; Celia Bean, former Chair of the former Friends of PCMAG; Councillor Mark Deacon; Louisa Blight, Collections Manager at The Box, and Emma Philip, Senior Curator
Cllr Mark Deacon, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, Culture, Leisure and Sport said: “As a city we’re extremely proud of what Reynolds achieved during his lifetime.
“It’s great to see this new plaque go on display to acknowledge the strong connection he had with this part of Plymouth – and even better to be able to reveal it on what would have been his birthday.”
Lindsey Hall, CEO for Real Ideas said: “It’s already been an historic week for us as we celebrate the launch of the newly restored Market Hall here in Devonport. We’re really pleased to be the location for this new plaque which gives another insight into the area’s fascinating past as well as Reynolds’ early career.”
Louisa Blight, Collections Manager, and Emma Philip, Senior Curator, with the new plaque
Fourteen portraits by Reynolds will shortly go on display at The Box in a new exhibition that explores the artist’s relationship with the Eliot family of Port Eliot, St Germans.
‘Family & Friends: Reynolds at Port Eliot’ is free to view and will be on show from 24 July until 5 September.
Visitors to The Box can also see a 1746 self-portrait, 1750-1752 sketchbook and 1755 sitter’s book in the ‘Our Art’ gallery and four additional portraits by Reynolds in the Cottonian Research Room.