A Discourse, delivered at the Opening of the Royal Academy, January 2, 1769 [also: October 16, 1780], by the President.

London: Printed in the Year 1769.

Seven works bound together, 4to, Opening 1769: pp. [4], 15, [1], Prizes 1769: pp. [4], 23, [1], with a half-title, Opening 1780: pp. [4], 6, with a half-title, issued with Prizes 1780: pp. [7]-32, Prizes 1784: pp. [4], 32, with a half-title, Prizes 1786: pp. [4], 30, with a half-title, and Prizes 1788: pp. [4], 26, with a half-title; authorial presentation inscriptions to five works, three cropped by the binder; good copies in nineteenth-century three-quarter red morocco, neatly rebacked preserving the gilt spine; bookplate of Henry White.


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A Discourse, delivered at the Opening of the Royal Academy, January 2, 1769 [also: October 16, 1780], by the President.

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First editions of seven discourses addressed by Reynolds to the newly founded Royal Academy, of which he was the first President.

‘The Royal Academy opened on 2 January 1769. To mark the occasion Reynolds read out an address, published the following month as A Discourse, Delivered at the Opening of the Royal Academy. Reynolds wrote fifteen discourses between 1769 and 1790, each one (with the exception of the inaugural Discourse and the ninth) delivered on the occasion of the distribution of prizes to the academy’s students … Each discourse was published shortly after its delivery, Reynolds presenting a copy to each member of the academy, and each member of the Club’ (ODNB). Reynolds made careful and copious notes before the delivery of each speech, and sought the assistance of friends such as Samuel Johnson (whose corrections to a manuscript draft of the eleventh discourse are preserved at the Royal Academy of Arts); Johnson also provided the dedication to the collected edition of Seven Discourses (1778). Subjects covered by Reynolds include life models, the ‘great style’, sculpture, and even his great rival Gainsborough.

This set comprises presentation copies to George Brudenell Montagu, Duke of Montagu (1712–1790). A courtier with little interest in politics, he was successively governor and captain of Windsor Castle, governor to the Prince of Wales, and Master of the Horse. Although Reynolds does not ever appear to have painted Montagu himself, his portrait of Montagu’s daughters Harriet and Elizabeth, then aged 13 and 20 respectively, was exhibited in 1763.

Hilles, Literary Career of Sir Joshua Reynolds 3, 4, 14, 20, 21 and 24.

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