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Sir Joshua Reynolds

Reynolds was born in Plympton St Maurice on 16th July 1723, the seventh son of Reverend Samuel Reynolds, then headmaster of the Grammar School and fellow of Balliol College, Oxford. His baptism is recorded in the St. Maurice Church register. He was actually named in the register as Joseph, and the record was later corrected. He was apprenticed in 1740 to the fashionable London portraitist Thomas Hudson, who also trained Wright of Derby. He spent 1749-52 abroad, mainly in Italy, and set up practice in London shortly after his return. Although Reynolds settled in London he returned frequently to Devon, visiting Saltram, where a number of his portraits of the Parker family can be seen. It was largely his personal links with families such as the Parkers, Edgcumbes and the Mudges, that introduced his friends, Dr. Samuel Johnson and Fanny Burney the eighteenth century novelist, to the South West.


In 1768, Reynolds became the first President of the Royal Academy. He was knighted by George III in the following year. In 1773 he was chosen as Mayor of Plympton. He told George III, "This gives me more pleasure than any other honour I have received", then tactfully added, "except that which Your Majesty was graciously pleased to bestow upon me". Reynolds painted a portrait of himself and presented it to Plympton Borough. The corporation, in financial difficulty, sold the portrait in 1837 to the Earl of Egremont for £150.


In 1973, on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Reynolds' birth, the Civic Association, in conjunction with Plympton Grammar School, arranged various celebrations including the donation of wrought iron gates to the old School. They were ceremonially opened by Sir Thomas Monnington, the President of the Royal Academy. In the same year the Post Office honoured the famous son of Plympton by issuing two commemorative stamps.

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