Plymouth to celebrate one of its most famous sons

A Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project will celebrate the life and work of Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of Plymouth’s most famous artists, on Friday 4 March.

Sir Reynolds was born in Plympton, St Maurice in 1723, after establishing his first studio in Devonport he went on to become one of the 18th century’s most prominent artists and is widely recognised as ‘Britain’s greatest portrait painter’. Reynolds’ legacy to the nation stretched beyond painting as in 1760 as a prominent member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts and Commerce and Manufactures (RSA) and other leading artists, he staged the first exhibition of combined artists in the UK at the RSA’s house in London.

Following his success, Reynolds went on to found the Royal Academy of Arts, becoming the organisation’s first president. To this day, the exhibition continues with the Royal Academy becoming the nation’s most prestigious cultural organisation.

Support from HLF and a range of other funders, in 2014 the City Museum and Art Gallery acquired an early self-portrait and an Italian sketchbook belonging to Reynolds. The partnership has undertaken a major community engagement programme to help raise awareness of Reynolds’ early career.

Working in partnership with the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), Arts Council England South West (ACE) and Redrow (West Country) two events will be held this Friday at the Devonport Guildhall. The afternoon will see the opening of an exhibition of nearly 650 photographs taken by children who either live or go to school in Devonport. Students from Devonport High School for Boys, Mount Wise Community Primary School and St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School have worked on a project with photographer Tim Mills, exploring ideas around the theme of identity.

There will be an awards ceremony where children will receive Arts Award certificates and four Fine Arts students from Plymouth College of Arts and Plymouth University will be awarded ‘Redrow Joshua Reynolds RSA Fellowships’ recognising not only the quality of their work but also their contributions to a wider Plymouth society.

Chair of RSA South West, Ed Whitelaw said, “The RSA has a 250 year history of using ideas to enrich British society, Joshua Reynolds is one of many famous names who has flourished within the organisation, these fellowships are just one way we can support a new generation of creative civic leaders for the 21st century.

“The exhibition opening and awards ceremony will also be accompanied by the unveiling of the Joshua Reynolds blue plaque which will eventually be installed on the new extension of Devonport’s Market Hall, the city’s new space for digital arts.”

Sales Director at Redrow, Andrew Addison added, “We’re delighted to have been ongoing sponsors and supporters of this exciting project, and we are so pleased to have played a part in bringing new audiences to view some of Joshua Reynolds’ original work. We are proud to have been involved in the restoration of the Devonport Market Hall for a number of years now which is helping breath new life into this part of the city’s heritage.”

The exhibition launch, certificate and awards presentations and plaque unveiling will take place from 3pm-5:15pm. With the exhibition open to members of the public from 5 to 29 March, supported by the South Devon Decorative and Fine Arts Society. For more information and to book visit