In 1768 Sir Joshua was made the first President of the Royal Academy, and it was then that he was knighted by the king. He read lectures at the Academy until 1790, when he took his leave. During these years he sent two hundred and forty-four pictures to the various exhibitions. In 1782 he had a slight shock of paralysis, but was quite well until 1789, when he feared that he should be blind, and from this time he did not paint. He was ill about three months before his death, which occurred in February, 1792. His remains were laid in state at the Royal Academy, and then buried in St. Paul’s Cathedral, near the tomb of Sir Christopher Wren.

It is to be regretted that the colors used by Sir Joshua Reynolds are now much faded in many of his pictures. Those in the National Gallery, in London, are, however, in good preservation. Naturally, since so many of his pictures were portraits they are in the collections of private families in England, and but few of them are seen in European galleries. There is an excellent opportunity to study his manner in the pictures at the South Kensington Museum, where there are several portraits, some pictures of children, and the “Graces Decorating a Statue of Hymen.”

It is very satisfactory to think of a great artist as a genial, happy man, who is dear to his friends, and has a full, rich life outside of his profession. Such a life had Sir Joshua Reynolds, and one writer says of him: “They made him a knight—this famous painter; they buried him ‘with an empire’s lamentation;’ but nothing honors him more than the ‘folio English dictionary of the last revision’ which Johnson left to him in his will, the dedication that poor, loving Goldsmith placed in the ‘Deserted Village,’ and the tears which five years after his death even Burke could not forbear to shed over his memory.”

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) was born in Sudbury, in Suffolk, and when still quite young went to London, and studied under Francis Hayman, who was not an eminent painter. Gainsborough became one of the most important masters of the English school, especially in landscape painting and the representation of rustic figures. His portraits were not as good in color as those of Sir Joshua Reynolds; they have a bluish-gray hue in the flesh tints; but they are always graceful and charming. His landscapes are not like those of any other master. They are not exact in the detail of leaves and flowers—a botanist could find many faults in them—but they are like nature in spirit: they seem to have the air blowing through them, they are fresh and dewy when it is morning in them, and quiet and peaceful when evening comes under his brush. In many of his pictures he put a cart and a white animal.

His rustic figures have the true country life in them: they seem to have fed upon the air, and warmed themselves in the sun until they are plump and rosy as country lads and lasses should be. His best genrepictures are the “Cottage Girl,” the “Woodman and Dog in a Storm,” the “Cottage Door,” and the “Shepherd Boy in a Shower.” He painted a picture of a “Girl and Pigs,” for which Sir Joshua Reynolds paid him one hundred guineas.

In character Gainsborough was very attractive, though somewhat contradictory in his moods. He was generous and genial, lovable and affectionate; he was also contradictory and impulsive, not to say capricious. His wife and he had little quarrels which they settled in this wise: When Gainsborough had spoken to her unkindly, he would quickly repent, and write a note to say so, and address it to his wife’s spaniel, called “Tristram,” and sign it with the name of his pet dog, “Fox.” Then Margaret Gainsborough would answer: “My own, dear Fox, you are always loving and good, and I am a naughty little female ever to worry you as I too often do, so we will kiss, and say no more about it; your own affectionate Tris.” Like Reynolds, Gainsborough had many warm friends, and when he died Sir Joshua himself watched by his bedside, and bent to catch his last word, which was the name of Vandyck.