Reynolds’ links with Devonport explored through ‘Art in the Park’


An outdoor exhibition running in Devonport Park until 26 July is highlighting the work of one of Plymouth’s most famous artists and exploring his links with a part of the city that is often forgotten.

‘Art in the Park’ is an arts and health project organised by ‘One Red Dot’ in association with Community Health in Lipson (CHIL).

One Red Dot offers assistance and support to like-minded artists through a programme of activities and events. CHIL is a small charitable organisation that aims to improve service users’ mental health and wellbeing through a community development approach.

The project is supported by Vital Sparks, a city-wide initiative designed to inspire arts, culture and creativity at a grass-roots level, the Council’s Arts and Heritage Service and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

‘Art in the Park’ features a series of display panels installed on 20 different lampposts throughout the park. Each panel contains information and an image of a work of art painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. A parallel display is also on show at the Devonport Live Community Café.

Reynolds was born in Plympton in 1723 and went on to become one of the 18th century’s most foremost artists as well as the founding President of London’s prestigious Royal Academy.

What’s lesser known is that, prior to making his fortune in the capital he had a studio in Devonport, an area which at the time was known as Dock. It was at this studio that Reynolds began to establish and develop his artistic career, undertaking portraits of naval commanders and their families whose livelihoods were based around the prospering Dockyard.

Although the exact location of his studio is unknown plans to install a commemorative plaque to acknowledge his links with the area and his time spent there as a portrait painter between 1743 and 1749 are underway.

Four potential sites have been identified and from now until 26 July people can help select the final location by casting their vote at www.surveymonkey.com/s/W8PKYN5

Alternatively, they can come along and give their feedback during a special ‘Picnic in the Park’ event which will take place by the bandstand in Devonport Park from 10am to 2pm on Thursday 16 July – the date of Reynolds’ birthday.
The free event will include information on Reynolds and his time in Devonport as well as family-friendly arts and craft activities. There is no need to book. People are welcome to come along for as little or as long as they like.

Deputy Council Leader Peter Smith said: “Sir Joshua Reynolds is one of Plymouth’s most famous artists and achieved a great deal during his career in the 18th century. This is a really interesting project that’s helping us to share even more of his story and explore his links with another part of the city. I hope lots of people get involved and cast their votes for the plaque. It will be great to create another permanent legacy for someone who really helped put Plymouth on the map.”
For more information about Devonport Park visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/devonportpark
For more information about Sir Joshua Reynolds visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/sirjoshuareynolds
For more information about Vital Sparks visit www.plymouth.gov.uk/vitalsparks