Sir Joshua Reynolds PRA FRS FRSA (16 July 1723 – 23 February 1792) was an English painter, specialising in portraits. He was noted for his paintings of the "Streatham Worthies"- a collective description for the circle of literary and cultural figures around the wealthy brewer Henry Thrale and his wife Hester.
Samuel Johnson (another Streatham Worthy), whom Reynolds had met about 1756, was the single most important influence on Reynolds's life during the 1750s and 1760s. 'For my own part I acknowledge the highest obligations to him. He may be said to have formed my mind and brushed off from it a great deal of rubbish' (Hilles, *Portraits*, 66).
Later, in August 1764, when Reynolds was struck with a serious illness, Johnson wrote to him, 'if I should lose you, I should lose almost the only Man whom I call a Friend' (Boswell, *Life*, 1.486).
Reynolds painted Johnson on a number of occasions; the earliest (NPG) portrayed him, as Boswell recalled, 'in the attitude of sitting in his easy chair in deep meditation'.
Later, in a painting for the wealthy brewer Henry Thrale, Reynolds attempted to capture Johnson's short-sightedness, which resulted in the celebrated retort, 'He may paint himself as deaf if he chuses … but I will not be *blinking* *Sam*' (H. L. Piozzi, *Anecdotes of the Late Samuel Johnson, LL.D*, 1786, 248).
In 1759 Johnson commissioned Reynolds to write three essays for *The Idler*, thus launching his literary career. The essays addressed the concepts of beauty, imitation, and nature, and prefigured arguments that were to underpin his *Discourses on Art*, begun some ten years later.
(Source Michael Postle and Image a self portrait, Reynolds c.1750)