A full length portrait of Henry Lee, with a hoop, standing in a landscape

A full length portrait of Henry Lee, with a hoop, standing in a landscape



English School


A full length portrait of Henry Lee, with a hoop, standing in a landscape  

Oil on canvas, laid down on board

70.7 x 58.7 cms

277/8 x 231/8 inches

Overall framed size 86 x 73.6 cms

                                 337/8 x 29 ins


Ramsay Richard Reinagle was a painter of portraits, sporting subjects, landscapes and panoramas in both oil and watercolour although with the latter medium, he ceased utilising it in about 1813 having been prolific with it up until then.

He was born in London on 19th March 1775 and baptised on 16th April at St James’s, Piccadilly. His father was Philip Reinagle, (1775-1862) of Hungarian origin, who had also been initially a portrait painter before concentrating on animal and sporting subjects. Ramsay also had two sisters, Fanny and Charlotte who both became painters, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the British Institution.

Ramsay was a pupil of his father and displayed a precocious talent exhibiting his first picture at the Royal Academy, Dead Game, in 1788 when only 13 years old. In 1793 he travelled to the Netherlands and Italy, incessantly drawing and sketching panorama views of Florence, Rome and Naples which he worked up into finished paintings between 1802 and 1806. The great landscapist John Constable wrote in 1803: “Panorama painting seems all the rage. There are four or five now exhibiting, and Mr Reinagle is coming out with another, a view of Rome….I should think he has taken his view favourably, and it is executed with the greatest care and fidelity. This style of painting suits his ideas of the art itself...” Reinagle and Constable had been friends since they were both young artists and in 1799 they jointly purchased a landscape by Ruysdael in order to study it and use elements of the master in their own work. However they later fell out over a dispute as to the ownership of the painting.

Reinagle had a genuine interest in great works of art and apart from the aforementioned Ruysdael he also owned a Titian which eventually was purchased from him by the King. His studying of the masters combined with his own notable ability, made him a skilled restorer – one dealer apparently liked him to “improve” the paintings that he consigned to him - and copyist and he excelled in imitating Van Dyck, Titian and Gaspard Poussin. As a consequence he was asked by the Royal Academy to restore a cartoon by Leonardo in 1823.

His landscape paintings exhibit a keen appreciation and depiction of the effect that different times of day and types of weather had on the scene and he included animals in these paintings as well as field sports such as hunting and fishing.

Reinagle studied portraiture under the court painter John Hoppner (1758-1810) and was his assistant in about 1810 and most of the portraits of William Pitt ascribed to Hoppner are wholly or in part the work of Reinagle. The latter’s style reflects the influence of Hoppner as well as that of Thomas Lawrence who supplanted Hoppner in the public’s estimation with his artistic vitality and bravura.

In 1805 Reinagle was elected an associate of the Society of Painters in Watercolours (Old Watercolour Society) and a full member in 1806. He was made the Society’s Treasurer in 1807 and the served as President from 1808 and 1812. Associate membership of the Royal Academy followed in 1814 and he was elected a full member in 1823.

He was a prolific exhibitor with 364 works being shown during his lifetime comprised of 244 at the Royal Academy, 51 at the British Institution, 67 at the Old Watercolour Society and 2 at the Royal Society of British Artists. The majority of these were landscapes but examples of portraits include: Portrait of a gentleman, late of the 25th Dragoons; Count de Bouillé, Colonel of the British Hulans; Portrait of a lady and child; Mr Thomson, animal and bird preserver to the Leverian and British museums; Burgoyne, gamekeeper to the Duke of Devonshire, together with his horse and a favourite old pointer; Portraits of three children amusing themselves with a dog on the sea coast; Portrait of a young lady gathering a geranium; Portraits of three brothers perch fishing and The Earl of Guildford.

Examples of his portraits can be seen in: Tate Britain; National Portrait Gallery (including one of John Constable); Wallace Collection; Government Art Collection; National Army Museum; Royal College of Physicians; New College Oxford; Bristol Museum and Ar Gallery; Holkham; Clifton Park Museum; Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital; Chesterfiled Town Hall; Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court; Belper North Mill; National Trust: Kedleston Hall, Petworth House, Calke Abbey and Shugburgh Hall National Trust for Sctland: Brodrick Castle; Yale Center for British Art.

Apart from time spent residing in Cheltenham between 1842 and 1849 and his earlier years travelling abroad to paint, Reinagle spent his whole life in London. He married Oriana Bullfinch on 10th June 1861 at St Marylebone Church. He was asked to be a contributor to Cunningham’s British Painters and was responsible for the account of the life of the portraitist Allan Ramsay. A pamphlet, Catalogue Raisonné of the British Institution, published anonymously, which gave a distinctly unfavourable review of an Old Masters’ exhibition at the BI between 1815 and 16, was believed, by the artists Richard and Samuel Redgrave, to have been penned by Reinagle.

In spite of his success, Reinagle inexplicably succumbed to an indiscretion which adversely affected his reputation and economic situation. He had purchased a small painting, Shipping in a Breeze and Rainy Weather off Hurst Castle, in a pawn broker’s shop and after a few minor adjustments, entered it into the Royal Academy 1848 exhibition as being by his hand. The deception was exposed though after an anonymous letter in the Art Journal demonstrated that the painting was by Joseph William Yarnold, had been purchased at the broker’s for 22 shillings and, virtually unchanged, was subsequently for sale at the RA for 30 guineas. Reinagle protested his innocence but to no avail and the Committee had no choice but to request their member’s resignation of his diploma. Reinagle never really recovered from this and although he continued to send paintings for exhibition there until 1857, he took to more restoration work and also to lecturing using the premises of the piano-maker Collard and charging half a crown for admission. 

The RA behaved laudably throughout, not just by allowing him to exhibit and hanging his paintings in good positions, but also, when their former member fell into poverty, providing him with an allowance from their funds. He died, aged eighty-seven, on 17th November 1862 leaving a daughter and three sons, one of whom, George Philip, became a painter.


A Dictionary of British Landscape Painters – M H Grant

The Dictionary of British 18th Century Painters - Ellis Waterhouse

The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists - Sally Mitchell

Conversation Pieces – Sacheverell Sitwell

Dictionary of British Animal Painters – Colonel J C Wood

British Sporting Painters – Sydney H Pavière

Dog Painting 1840-1940 – William Secord

British Sporting Artists – W Shaw Sparrow

Watercolour Painting in Britain; The Eighteenth Century – Martin Hardie