Samuel Johnson

1 portrait

Samuel Johnson, by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1756-1757 - NPG 1597 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Samuel Johnson

by Sir Joshua Reynolds
oil on canvas, 1756-1757
50 1/4 in. x 40 in. (1276 mm x 1016 mm)
Given by an anonymous donor, 1911
Primary Collection
NPG 1597

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Sitterback to top

  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Poet, critic and lexicographer. Sitter associated with 50 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Painter and first President of the Royal Academy. Artist associated with 1413 portraits, Sitter associated with 38 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Massively ungainly and plagued with nervous tics, Dr Johnson was a victim of melancholia and could not bear solitude. He had an immense circle of friends and was one of the greatest conversationalists of all time. This portrait of him as a man of letters was painted by his friend Reynolds shortly after the publication of his Dictionary of the English Language of 1755, a prodigious labour which remains a monument to his scholarship as well as to his forthright personality. It was about this time that Johnson wrote his famous letter to Lord Chesterfield rebuking his former patron for his neglect. Information about the conservation of this work is available on the Gallery's website at

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