Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity - review by Matthew Sturgis

Matthew Sturgis

The Face of Fame

Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity

(Tate Britain, 26 May – 18 September 2005) order from our bookshop

We live, it cannot be doubted, in an age obsessed with celebrity. The very word now has the power of a charm. It can be added to any feeble project to give it the sparkle of glamour and excitement. Or so, at least, it is hoped. From the faltering beginnings of Celebrity Squares we have very quickly reached the saturated coverage of Celebrity Love Island, Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Wrestling, I'm a Celebrity Get Me a New TV Contract. And now, at Tate Britain, we are being offered Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity.

The title is not immediately encouraging. At least, it didn't encourage me. It carries the pungent whiff of catchpenny populism – a desperate bid to lure the masses through the all-too-unthronged portals of the old Tate Gallery. As such, I have to report, it has failed. I wandered around the

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