The National Trust at Saltram in Plymouth have partnered with The Box to exchange works from their collections to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of England’s greatest artists Sir Joshua Reynolds (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792).
To Tell Them Where It’s Got To (2013), a small painting by artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (born London 1977) loaned by The Box, is now hanging in the Red Room at Saltram in place of Reynolds’ portrait of Francesco Bartolozzi (1773), encouraging a comparison of different approaches to portraiture.
In return, two paintings from Saltram are shown at The Box in Reframing Reynolds: A Celebration (24 June – 29 October 2023): Reynolds’ portrait of Florentine engraver Bartolozzi and one of the artist’s great works, the newly cleaned portrait of The Hon.Theresa Robinson, Mrs John Parker (1773).
In contrast to the surrounding historic painting collection at Saltram, depicting known people in public displays of status, Yiadom-Boakye is inspired to create paintings of invented people created from found images, and her imagination.
Yiadom-Boakye initially leaned to paint by working from life but changed her approach whilst studying at Falmouth School of Art. She realised she was less interested in making portraits and more in the act of painting itself. The painting displayed was shown in 2022 at Tate Britain in the artist’s solo international touring exhibition and can be seen hung at Saltram until 31st October 2023.
This is the first time in 250 years that Reynolds’ full-length portrait of his patron and friend Theresa Parker has been displayed outside of Saltram’s Saloon – the place for which it was commissioned – since its completion and display at the Royal Academy of Arts in 1733. The painting recently underwent cleaning at the Trust’s Royal Oak Foundation Conservation Studio and will return to Saltram for visitors to view again from 2024. In the interim a print of the painting by Thomas Watson is displayed at Saltram in its place. Theresa Parker commissioned the print in part because her brother in Spain was desperate to see the painting.
Zoe Shearman, Property Curator at Saltram comments ‘We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with The Box on a two-way loan exchange for the first time, as part of Reynolds 300; to display the contemporary work by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye as a temporary intervention in the historic painting collection at Saltram, and to re-contextualise the newly cleaned portrait of Theresa Parker by Reynolds in a traditional gallery space. Like Reynolds, Yiadom-Boakye is one of the most significant and acclaimed figurative painters of her generation.’
Sir Joshua Reynolds was the leading English portraitist of the 18th century, reinvigorating the genre by combining English portraiture with ideas drawn from antiquity and the Old Masters. A portrait by Reynolds became something of a status symbol among the elite. Aristocrats and celebrities flocked to commission society’s most admired painter.
The Parker family at Saltram, close to Plympton where Reynolds was born, had an especially close and lifelong friendship with him. He painted them on numerous occasions and purchased art for them on the Continent.
Victoria Pomery, CEO at The Box comments: “Staging a major exhibition like ‘Reframing Reynolds: A Celebration’ would not be possible without the support of a range of partners, so we’re delighted to have collaborated with the National Trust to help tell the story of Reynolds’ life and career, and to have loaned a work to them as well. Saltram’s grand portrait of Theresa Parker is the first painting visitors see when they arrive in the exhibition and it looks stunning post-conservation. In return, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye has received great acclaim for her paintings in recent years, and we hope audiences to Saltram House will enjoy making the connections between her work and the other historic paintings it’s displayed alongside.”
The painting exchange with the Box forms part of the 300th anniversary celebrations of Joshua Reynolds at Saltram where visitors can currently see 13 Reynolds paintings including The Hon. Theresa Robinson, Mrs Parker (1744-1775), and her Son, John Parker, later 1st Earl of Morley (1772-1840), John Parker, later 1st Earl of Morley (1772-1840), and his Sister Theresa Parker, later the Hon. Mrs George Villiers (1775-1856), as children and Lieutenant, later Captain, Paul Henry Ourry, MP (1719-1783) and ‘Jersey’ (1748).
In addition, a selection of mezzotint prints after Reynolds portraits – probably collected by Theresa Parker – are on show in the Library and Garden Room at Saltram. Newly cleaned and reframed, these prints depict female sitters and have not been shown publicly for at least five years. The mezzotint process involved roughening a metal plate before applying ink and was adopted by Reynolds to reflect the depth of tonality in his portraits. Also on display is a discourse  delivered by Reynolds at the opening of the Royal Academy, with annotations dedicated to Theresa Parker.
The National Trust has the largest collections of works by Reynolds in historic house settings in the UK, many of which were commissioned for the original owners of the houses and are still displayed there, bringing a particular relevance to them and their stories for visitors.
Other National Trust places showcasing their Reynolds’ collections this year include Petworth in Sussex, Wimpole in Cambridgeshire and Knole House in Kent. An online exhibition on the National Trust’s website will showcase more of Reynolds works at properties around the country: Sir Joshua Reynolds collection highlights | National Trust
Visitors can see To Tell Them Where It’s Got To on display until October 31st 2023. The house at Saltram is open from 11am – 4.30pm every day except Wednesday. Admission is free for National Trust members, normal admission applies for non members. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/devon/saltram