Sir Joshua Reynolds was an influential 18th century English painter, specializing in portraits. He promoted the ‘Grand Style’ in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was born in Devon in 1723 and died in London in 1792. He was the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of Arts and was knighted by George III in 1769. He occasionally visited his eldest sister, Mary, who lived with her husband, John Palmer, at Palmer House in Torrington. On one visit in 1762 he was accompanied by Dr Johnson and it is said that they sat together in the gazebo which was situated in the garden but, after restoration in the 1990s, is now in the gardens of RHS Rosemoor just outside the town. Reynolds’s portrait of his sister Mary is in the Cottonian Library, Plymouth.
Castle House nursing home, a grand late 18th century house in Castle Street, was once the home of Mrs Elizabeth Deane, one of the nieces of Joshua Reynolds. She modelled for him as ‘Fortitude’, one of the Virtues in his memorial window at New College Chapel, Oxford.