An anonymous essay published in the Universal Magazine in November 1748 on The Art of Painting contained, besides technical advice, a brief list “of those painters of our nation, now living … [who] are justly esteemed eminent masters”. The list is interesting for providing a snapshot at an early period. Both Gainsborough and Reynolds, then young and largely unknown, make the cut. The list is as follows:
Austin, Browne, Barrat, Blakey, Crank, Dandridge, Eccard, Ellys, Fry, Gainsborough, Goupy, Goodwin, Green, Grilsieir, de Groit, Hayman, Hogarth, Hoar, Hone, Hymore, Hudson, Jenkins, Knapton, Lambert, Lens, Mathias, Monamie, Murry, Penny, Pine, Pond, Ramsey, Reynolds, Scot, Shackleton, Seymour, Soldy, Somers, Spencer, Smith, Toms. The two Vanhakens, Van Blake, Van Diest, Vanderbank, Vandergucht, Verelst. Wills, Wotton, Worsdale, Williams, Wood, Wilks, Wilson, Wollaston. Zink.
It would be fair to say that their reputations have diverged in the intervening centuries.
Seven years later, not all of these artists were alive, or living in England, but of those that were, some nineteen subscribed to Kirby’s Method of Perspective.