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Samuel Johnson

30 of 1413 portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Mid-Georgian Portraits Catalogue

Samuel Johnson

reduced copy after Sir Joshua Reynolds
mid 19th century, based on a work of circa 1769
17 3/4 in. x 15 1/4 in. (451 mm x 387 mm)
NPG 1445


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This portraitback to top

A reduced and indifferent mid-19th-century copy from the Reynolds in a private collection completed in 1769 and known as the ‘Johnson Arguing’ portrait. [1] It illustrates Johnson’s mental concentration; Reynolds himself wrote how, when Johnson was excluded from conversation, ‘he remained but a few moments without speaking or listening. His mind appeared to be preying on itself; he fell into a reverie accompanied with strange antic gesticulations’. [2]
A studio version, painted before 1771 for Lucy Porter, Johnson's step-daughter, is in the Houghton Library, Harvard, and a copy in the Tate Gallery (N 4506). [3] A copy in crayon by Ozias Humphry was etched by Mrs Dawson Turner c.1825, [4] and Boswell listed ‘a beautiful miniature in enamel' by Humphry from the Knole portrait. [5] An unattributed miniature copy is in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch. [6]

Footnotesback to top

1) D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, no.1012. Exhibited RA 1770 (150); first engraved J. Watson 1770.
2) F. W. Hilles, Portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1952, p 70.
3) Respectively D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, 2000, nos.1013 and 1013a (and for the latter see also M. Davies, National Gallery Catalogues, The British School, 1946, pp 128-29, no.4506).
4) Illus.G. C. Williamson, Ozias Humphry, 1918, f.p.88.
5) Boswell's Life of Johnson, ed. G. B. Hill & E. F. Powell, IV, p 421n.
6) Illus. C. Holme & H. A. Kennedy, Portrait Miniatures in the collection of the Duke of Buccleuch, 1917, pl.LXVII.

Referenceback to top

Mannings 2000
D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds, I, no.1013b.

Physical descriptionback to top

Brown hair, wearing a light brown coat.

Provenanceback to top

Sir Henry Ellis (d. 1869); presented, as a study for the Knole picture, by T. Humphry Ward1 1906.

1 Who wrote, 5 July 1906: ‘I have it from the collection of the late Sir Henry Ellis, [chief librarian] of the British Museum’ (NPG archive).

Exhibitionsback to top

Samuel Johnson, Londoner, Royal Exchange, London, 1964; Johnson and The Thrales, Bowood, 1984 (1).



This extended catalogue entry is from the out-of-print National Portrait Gallery collection catalogue: John Ingamells, National Portrait Gallery: Mid-Georgian Portraits 1760-1790, National Portrait Gallery, 2004, and is as published then. For the most up-to-date details on individual Collection works, we recommend reading the information provided in the Search the Collection results on this website in parallel with this text.

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