European
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Sir Joshua Reynolds (English, 1723–1792),
Portrait of Miss Franks , 1766
oil on canvas, 30 ¼ x 25 ¼ in.; 76.84 x 64.14 cm
Gift of Mrs. Sarah H. Joslyn, 1934.428

The most influential figure in eighteenth-century British art, Reynolds was also the most fashionable society portraitist. Unlike his many paintings of sitters in historical or mythological guises, Miss Franks offers a relatively direct representation of the subject in a neutral setting without literary or artistic references. The painterly landscape background, the loose white clothing, and the sitter’s pensive expression reflect the developing Romantic ideals of the late eighteenth century. Miss Franks’ striking pallor is probably the result of Reynolds’ experimentation with pigments and varnishes. Unfortunately, some of his flesh-toned colors faded rapidly, leaving portraits ghostlike even within a few years.

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