Philip Reinagle RA 1749-1833
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Philip Reinagle RA 1749-1833

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A female Cinnamon-mutant Blackbird and a male partial-albino Blackbird (Turdus merula) and Two wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) with variant markings

Oil paintings on canvas each 17.5 x 22 inches contained in a carved and gilded frames: a pair.
Painted circa 1800

Provenance: Private collection, UK

Born in Edinburgh in 1749 the son of a Hungarian musician, Philip Reinagle's early career was as a portrait painter. He entered the Royal Academy schools in 1769 and in the 1770's was assistant to Allan Ramsay in his studio for the repetition of royal portraits of King George and Queen Caroline.

From 1780 for a year or two he visited Norwich and painted conversation pieces in the manner of Henry Walton. Later in his career he took to painting animals in the style of Snyders and landscapes as in the old masters, of which he was a skilful imitator and restorer. He was an artist of considerable virtuosity and versatility, and his paintings of exotic birds are amongst the most remarkable in the late 18th century.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1773 to 1827. The present painting seems to date from about 1800, when Reinagle was engaged in painting a series of canine portraits for various patrons (including the Thorold and Thornton families), before embarking in about 1802 in the large series of the various breeds of dogs of the British Isles which he painted as models for the engravings of the same in the “Sportsman’s Cabinet”, a periodical which for a time was a great rival to the ubiquitous “Sporting Magazine”.

His paintings of birds, often tropical exotics which he observed at Ashton Levers famous Museum, appear in a small number of paintings on a monumental scale which he painted for Houghton in Norfolk. These may be considered his masterpiece (see image below) and are among the finest bird paintings of 18th century England. Reinagle's interest in ornithology is evidenced by the present pair of paintings, which depict on the one hand the commonest of birds, wood pigeons, and on the other hand two of the rarer varieties of a common bird: the Cinnamon mutation, and the partially-albino Blackbird. These are rare genetic mutations, and it is extremely unlikely that the two birds were observed at the same time. In all probability they were examples observed by the artist in the Leverian museum in London, which included taxidermy examples of a number of British birds which displayed albinism.

The present pictures exhibit the free brushwork and broad treatment allied with vibrant colour which is the hallmark of the artist in his prime. The paintings are well preserved; the original twill canvas support (again a Reinagle hallmark) remaining in excellent state.


Comparative Picture




Philip Reinagle Exotic birds in a landscape. Oil painting on canvas 84 x 120 inches. Commissioned as part of an ensemble of three paintings by George, 3rd Earl of Orford for Houghton House, and the artists's masterpiece. (With Lane Fine Art, 1990)