"Jonathan Richardson" by Carol Gibson-Wood

Jonathan Richardson Art Theorist of the English Enlightenment Carol Gibson-Wood

The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
Publication date:
11 Aug 2000
Paul Mellon Centre BA
272 pages:
90 b-w illus.


Jonathan Richardson (1667–1745), one of his generation’s foremost portrait painters, was also one of the most influential art theorists in eighteenth-century Britain. In this critical biography, Carol Gibson-Wood provides for the first time a detailed account of Richardson’s life, including new information from original archival sources and unpublished correspondence, along with an analysis of Richardson’s most significant theoretical texts.

Gibson-Wood describes art consumption in England in Richardson’s time as well as the debates concerning native versus Continental painting. She argues that Richardson’s personal and written responses to these circumstances quintessentially embody “bourgeois” English Enlightenment ideals and the Lockean principles underpinning them. The first part of the book examines Richardson’s personal life, professional career, literary aspirations, activities as a collector, and relationships with such contemporaries as Alexander Pope. In the second part Gibson-Wood sets Richardson’s writings in the context of earlier art theory and of other genres of contemporary writing and concludes that his art-theoretical program was a radically English one that upheld the ability of freethinking Englishmen—including painters—to establish their own aesthetic criteria.

Carol Gibson-Wood is professor in the department of history in art and holds the Lansdowne Chair in Fine Arts at the University of Victoria, British Columbia.

?Well-researched and well written. . . . Scholars interested in eighteenth-century art and culture will find this an excellent book.??Floyd W. Martin, Albion

?It is certainly time that due attention was paid to him, and Jonathan Richardson: Art Theorist of the Enlightenment is all the more interesting because it echoes something of its subject?s own battling spirit. Scholarly and scrupulous, beautifully produced and illustrated, it does much to fill out the picture of the man and his work.??Jenny Uglow, Times Literary Supplementx