Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Portraits in the Grand Manner

The dominating style in late eighteenth century British portraiture is known as "Grand Manner." Some credit the invention of the style with Joshua Reynolds refined and defined the style in his Discourses on Art and would discuss it in his lectures at the Royal Academy. Reynolds actually would refer to it as "great style" or "great style" but names were not important, it was the concept of the style.

So how we do we know what is Grand Manner? Well, most of the portraits that have graced this blog over the years are done in this style, for the blog's author has a preference to this style which shows her Enlightenment. That is the intention of Grand Manner: to show the sitter's Enlightenment. The sitter is made to look noble, smart, and with purpose. "That isn't as easy as you may think." you might say. Luckily, I have a a quick reference guide to how to piece together a portrait in the grand manner style:

1. Paint a full length life size or larger.

2. Put the sitter in a Classical pose (extra points for a gesture)

3. Paint an Arcadian landscape, more fantasy than reality.

4. Include a Classical prop: urn, fragment of architecture, or even Laocoon statue (if you are in Rome)

5. Dog is a charming touch but optional


  1. I love it! What a great breakdown!

    Do you have any sources for the Reynold's link? And how does the Grand Manner differ from earlier portrait styles?

  2. I love Grand Manner style, it made the sitters look so interesting that one would desire to have had the oportunity to know them.

  3. The link that shows the detail of the Laocoon statue? That is a Batoni's portrait of Count Kirill Grigorjewitsch Razumovsky. The Grand Manner differs in that it was conscious of the sitter's surroundings with a goal of distinguishing the sitter as intelligent and enlightened. The techniques were adapted from studying the Italian Renaissance masters. Earlier portrait styles tended to also want to flatter their sitter but they were usually put in a static pose and usually in an interior background.

  4. Ah, our old friend Lord Dunmore, illustrating yet another Grand theme: Paint the sitter wearing at least three clashing tartan plaids. Love it!

  5. thanx a lot for that great post! i like the third one of lady delmé and her children.
    but some of reynolds not so grand manner portraits are also very nice: 1) love the pose in this one
    2) her facial expression is just captivating. what was Miss Jacobs thinking about, that made her looking so sad?

  6. hmm... I'll remember these rules for when I have my portrait painted someday. For my boudoir of course ;)