John Manners, Marquis of Granby
by Sir Joshua Reynolds, British 1723-1792
CN 389, Oil on Canvas 1766

by Robert Anderson.

Sir Joshua Reynolds, the English painter and writer on art was a founder and the first President of the Royal Academy. He was in addition the leading portraitist of his day and perhaps the most important figure in the history of English painting.

Reynolds practiced portrait painting in the Grand Manner and in so doing raised the stature of the artist to a new higher level of dignity in England. The Grand Manner was an attitude rather than a style. Its general aim was to transcend nature - the subject was to be placed on an elevated and elevating plane. Figures were to be purged of their grosser elements of ordinary existance - peculiaralities of human features were to be eliminated - drapery was to be simple and contemporary costume was to be shunned.

He set up as a portraitist in London in 1740 and subsequently, while in Italy from 1750-52, studied the great masters of the 16th & 17th centuries . It was there that he was to develop a cult of learning and classical illusion that colored his whole approach to art. He believed in improving upon the "deficiences" of nature and in using poses and gestures that alluded to the great art of the past (ie.heroic poses).

Reynolds became wealthy thru hard work & careful business judgement. Knighted in 1769, he was a courtly figure who procured for Professors of Art a dignity which they had never had previously. His friends were the leading literary individuals of the day, Samuel Johnson, Oliver Goldsmith etc.

As a portraitist Reynolds was remarkable for his versatility and his inexhaustible range of response to the individuality of each sitter, man, woman or child. Making no preliminary drawings, he painted directly on canvas. His finest pictures take their place among the great masterpieces of British portraiture.

John Manners, Marquis of Granby was a zealous partisan of the House of Hanover. He raised a regiment called the "Leicester Blues" at his own expense and received his commission as Colonel in 1745. He fought against the Stuarts at Culloden in 1746 when the Scottish Pretender was defeated and escaped to the continent. He became a Major General in 1755, Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards, "The Blues" in 1758 and a Lieutenant General in 1759. The Marquis led his regiment, "The Blues" at the battle of Minden during the Seven Years War where his bravery decided the victory. In 1760 & 61 he fought against the Duc de Broglie and the Prince de Soubise at Warburg and Kirkdenkirch.

On his return to England Granby was made a member of the Privy Counci, Lord Lieutenant of the County of Derby in 1764 and Commander-in-Chief (1766-1769).

Interestingly enough this painting was commissioned by Granby as a gift for his former adversary in the Seven Years War, the French Marshall Victor-Francois the second Duc de Broglie. The portrait is full-length, life-size and Granby is in the full uniform of a British general. He stands in front of a brown war horse in rich trappings and is attended by a black servant whose turbaned head is just seen above the horse's haunches. Granby, bare-headed, turns his face in three-quarter profile to the right, his eyes scanning the horizon.

This picturesque group is positioned in an open countryside against a lightly clouded sky brightening below. At the left in the distance, a cavalry engagement is in progress.As mentioned above the picture was painted when Granby was commander-in-chief and was given to Marechal Duc de Broglie, his former foe and later friend.

Historical Context:
The Seven Years War followed the Spanish War of Succession which had left all the major European powers insecure regarding territorial settlement and control. The old balance of power had been disturbed by the growth of the Prussian army and the British navy. France, in particular, was concerned with these developments.

This new war was fought not only on the continent but also, importantly for England, in the Atlantic, in North America, and in India. The British battled France on all these fronts and it was in these latter areas that the results of the war were immense and enduring.

On the continent their ally was Frederick II with his Prussion army against the French, Russians, and the Austrian army of Maria Theresa. The British and French fought he ad to head in India, Canada and the Caribbean for what would become the bastions of the British Empire, built with money, courage, cruelty and brains, in full accord with the international morals of the eighteenth century.