Reynolds’ First Sketch (1866)


‘Reynolds’ First Sketch’ (1866) by Eyre Crowe

Medium: oil

Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1866

Owners until the mid-20th century: allegedly H.R.H. Prince Albert, then Rudolph Wurlitzer (the Wurlitzer Company), then the Paramount Company (R.K.O.)

Original caption: ‘When but eight years old, he had made himself sufficiently master of Perspective, from the Jesuit treatise, to draw the school house according to rule, no easy matter, as the upper part is half supported by a range of pillars’ – Tom Taylor

Athenaeum, 12 May 1866:

The ‘young men’ of this period, with one or two noteworthy exceptions – such as are afforded by the practice of Messrs. Marks and Crowe, – are in too great haste to realize the reward, and do not care for labour.

Illustrated London News, 19 May 1866:

Mr. Eyre Crowe usually exhibits far more important works than his picture of the boy Reynolds making his first sketch of the grammar-house at Plympton, or than his ‘Competitive Examination‘ which seems a rather unfortunately-chosen subject.

Athenaeum, 19 May 1866:

The architectural part of this picture has evidently been painted ‘on the spot’, and is thus made doubly interesting. Though rather hard, it is bright and clear; the figures tell the story with completeness and are artistically treated.

Art Journal, 1866, p. 166:

‘Reynold’s First Sketch’ (394) is better [than Competitive Examination]: the arched and columned corridor is well painted.

This painting was offered for auction at Sheppard’s Auction House, Ireland, on 9 July 2014 (lot 1225) – estimate EUR 3,000-5,000. It was offered again by Maynard’s Fine Art and Antiques, Vancouver, Canada on 25 March 2015 (lot 9) – estimate CAD 3,000-5,000. The image above is taken from the online auction details from Maynard’s in 2015.

The Canadian auction details reveal that the picture has a wooden label attached giving its title and earlier provenance:

“First sketch by Joshua Reynolds, Plymouth School.

From Winson-Newton to HRH Prince Albert, London




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