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The reasoning eye: Jonathan Richardson's (1667-1745) portrait theory and practice in the context of the English Enlightenment

von der Geest, Simone; (2005) The reasoning eye: Jonathan Richardson's (1667-1745) portrait theory and practice in the context of the English Enlightenment. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis is concerned with the pictorial oeuvre of the English painter, art theorist and connoisseur Jonathan Richardson (1667-1745). It focuses on Richardson's series of portraits of John Milton, Alexander Pope, of his son Jonathan Richardson Junior and of himself as well as on his portraits of friends. Following a biographical introduction the second chapter looks into Richardson's "collection of the portraits of friends". This collection provides insight into both Richardson's world of ideas and his aptitude as a draughtsman. It not only shows that Richardson was driven by the same philosophical ideas preoccupying many thinkers of the Enlightenment, but that he used portraits as an aesthetic means in order to memorise and visualise these ideas. Chapter three is dedicated to Richardson's series of self-portraits and how they originate from the artist's deep scepticism in Locke's epistemological concept of personal identity. Considering his son as his alter ego the series of portraits of Richardson Junior constitutes an aesthetic continuation of Richardson's self-portraits examining the process of reasoning. The last two chapters are concerned with the series of portraits of Milton and Pope originating from Richardson's intellectual preoccupation with their poetical works. While interpreting Paradise Lost (1667) as the history of mankind and considering Pope's Essay on Man (1733) as a philosophical essay on human understanding, Richardson endeavoured to find a pictorial language in his portraits visualising a poetical genius that makes us "ourselves to know" {lcub}An Essay on Man, IV, 1). This comparative analysis shows that Richardson's creativity as visual artist largely originates from his intense preoccupation with Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690). Comparable with poets and philosophers of the early eighteenth century who developed the literary form of the essay to new heights, Richardson used his portrait sequences in order to visualise the disjointed nature of human understanding.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The reasoning eye: Jonathan Richardson's (1667-1745) portrait theory and practice in the context of the English Enlightenment
Identifier: PQ ETD:602673
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of History of Art
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446746
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