This painting is a copy of the central section of a portrait painted by Joshua Reynolds and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1784.
Joshua Reynolds first painted Fox in 1762, when Fox was just 13. The portrait, now in a private collection, shows Fox in the garden of Holland House with his cousin, Lady Susan Fox, and aunt, Lady Sarah Bunbury. Fox was painted by Reynolds again in 1764-65, shortly after leaving Eton College (Eton College collection).
Reynolds’ original version of this work was commissioned in 1781-82, as a gift for Fox’s supporter John Crewe, First Baron Crewe. Crewe later presented it to Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester. Today it remains in the collection at Holkham Hall, Norfolk, the country seat of the Earls of Leicester.
In common with Fox, the painter Reynolds was not able to count King George III as an admirer. The King was probably referring to the Holkham Hall painting when he wrote to fencing master Henry Angelo: ‘Yes - yes, very like, very like. Sir Joshua’s picture is finely painted - a fine specimen of art; - but Gillray is the better limner. Nobody hits off Mr Fox like him...’
Joshua Reynolds was the dominant artistic personality during the age of George III. He was born in Plympton, Devon. From 1750 to 1752 he studied the work of the Old Masters in Rome. Reynolds returned via Florence and Paris, and settled in London in 1753. In 1759 he painted a portrait of the future king, George, Prince of Wales (Royal Collection). After George’s accession the following year, Reynolds was dismayed to learn that Allan Ramsay had been made Principal Painter to the King. This marked the beginning of increasing hostility between Reynolds and the King. Nonetheless, by 1760 Reynolds had established himself as the leading portraitist. He became President of the Royal Academy in 1768 and was knighted the following year.
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