Lady Caroline Howard Joshua Reynolds Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Painted in 1778, Lady Caroline Howard is a portrait of a lively little girl. It has the distinction of having been painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, one of the most distinguished portrait painters of the 18th century. The portrait was commissioned by the girl’s father, Frederick Howard, the 5th Earl of Carlisle.

The girl is thought to have been around seven years old when this portrait was painted. An oil on canvas painting, it's painted in what is called the Rococo style. This was a highly ornamental and decorative style of painting which celebrated the positivity of the times. It featured mainly whites and pastels. Looking at the portrait, one feels that her young ladyship resented having to sit still for the long period that would have been required to get her portrait painted. She doesn't look at the painter and seems far more interested in the roses in the urn next to her.

However, one cannot but feel glad that Lady Caroline Howard's father commissioned the portrait. It shows us an eternal truth. Children, no matter what age they may live in, cannot hide their true feelings. Lady Caroline was not in the mood to sit and pretend she was enjoying having her portrait painted. What child would be? One gets the impression she would rather have been running around and playing in the garden. That is perfectly normal.

Sir Joshua Reynolds was a portrait specialist a distinguished 18th-century painter. He's known for his grand style of painting, which idealises the imperfect. He was the founder of the Royal Academy, as well as its first president. He received his knighthood from King George III in 1769. He was the son of a clergyman who ran a grammar school. Although his father had been to Oxford, he didn’t send any of his sons there. Sir Joshua Reynolds, however, did his family proud with his distinguished painting career. The painting was exhibited in 1779 in the Royal Academy. Thereafter it was displayed in the family home. It's now part of the collection of distinguished paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. The gallery acquired the painting in 1937.