King George III (1738-1820) Reigned 1760-1820
About the work
Place: Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, Whitehall
Interpretation about this artwork is under review
The Government Art Collection recognises its responsibility to artists, colleagues and all our audiences to represent the diversity of the UK and to embed anti-racist and equitable practices throughout our work. We are taking action to address inequality in the Collection and its interpretation.
Painted in 1779, almost 20 years after his accession to the throne, George III is seated in the Coronation chair wearing his state robes and holding a sceptre.
Sir Joshua Reynolds reportedly requested sittings from the monarch as a condition of his acceptance of the presidency of the Royal Academy. The fact that painter felt it necessary to include such a stipulation demonstrates his tense relationship with the king.
This portrait was commissioned for the new premises of the Royal Academy at Somerset House, along with a companion portrait of Queen Charlotte. The king allowed just two sittings. Reynolds received two hundred guineas for both works on their completion and the original versions remain in the collection of the Royal Academy. After the death of the Allan Ramsay (the king’s Principal Painter) in 1784, Reynolds became the chief supplier of Royal portraits to Governors and Ambassadors and his studio assistants were occupied in producing numerous replicas of the Royal Academy portraits, including this example.
About the artist
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.
Sir Joshua, (after) Reynolds
- King George III (1738-1820) Reigned 1760-1820
- Oil on canvas
- height: 236.00 cm, width: 145.00 cm
- Presented by Peter Jones, January 1954
- Collection of Peter Jones, Greenbank, Chester; by whom presented to the Ministry of Works in 1954
- GAC number