Alexandra Gent - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Alexandra Gent

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Alexandra Gent

Repetition and Replication in Joshua Reynolds’s Studio Practice
Supervised by Prof. Aviva Burnstock and Prof. David Solkin
Funded by CHASE/AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership

This thesis proposes to investigate the production of replicas in Joshua Reynolds’s studio through the technical analysis of his subject and fancy paintings. By studying extant multiple versions of selected works the processes for making replicas and the extent to which studio assistants and copyists were involved will be investigated. Through technical comparison of different versions, the research will explore the physical outcomes of the creative processes used by Reynolds, as recorded in documentary sources, which describe how the artist worked on two versions of the same composition simultaneously.

Technical analysis will be employed to assess whether a set of characteristics can be defined in relation to the categories of ‘first version’, ‘replica’ or ‘studio replica’ as set out by David Mannings in Joshua Reynolds a Complete Catalogue of his Paintings (2000). In a group of multiple versions of the same composition there will be a painting that can be considered the prime or first version, incorporating significant compositional changes made using paint.

Reynolds’s own production of replicas will be investigated, in the context of the simultaneous working process described by James Northcote, by studying examples of subject pictures where more than one version exists, seeking evidence of Reynolds’s characteristic handling with composition changes on more than one canvas. The third category of ‘studio replica’ will be based on previous research that suggests that these paintings (executed by by assistants) were made using a relatively simple layer structure with few compositional adjustments made during painting.


  • MA Culture, Policy and Management, City University London
  • Bachelor of Applied Science, Conservation of Cultural Materials, University of Canberra, Australia

Research Interests

  • Technical art history
  • Joshua Reynolds
  • Conservation
  • Easel paintings
  • Colour-change in paintings
  • Eighteenth-century British art

Recent Conference Papers

  • ‘Replication in Joshua Reynolds’s Studio Practice: The Fortune Teller’, Seventh Early Modern Symposium: Recasting Reproduction, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 18 November 2017
  • ‘Joshua Reynolds and Wax: the treatment of Miss Jane Bowles’, George Stubbs and Wax Painting Symposium, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, 14 October 2016

Recent Publications

  • Clarricoates, R, H. Dowding and A. Gent (eds.), Colour Change in Paintings, London: Archetype, 2016.

  • Gent, A. and L. Davis, ‘Reynolds as Restorer: Prince Baltasar Carlos in Black and Silver’ in Painting Techniques, History, Materials and Studio Practice, Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum, 2016.

  • Gent, A, R. Morrison and N. von Aderkas, 1st olio after capivi Copaiba Balsam in the Paintings of Sir Joshua Reynolds, in Studying 18th-Century Paintings and Works of Art on Paper, H. Evans and K. Muir (eds.), 2015, pp. 140-152
  • Gent, A, ‘Reynolds, Paint and Painting: A Technical Analysis’, Joshua Reynolds, Experiments in Paint, L. Davis and M. Hallett (eds.), 2015, pp. 42-53


Teaching Assistant, Courtauld Institute of Art, BA1 & Graduate Diploma Foundations Lecture Course: The Physical History of the Work of Art

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