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That Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) became the most fashionable painter of his time was not simply due to his artistic gifts or good fortune. The art of pleasing, Richard Wendorf contends, was as much a part of Reynolds’s success – in his life and in his work – as the art of painting. The author’s examination of Reynolds’s life and career illuminates the nature of eighteenth-century English society in relation to the enterprise of portrait-painting. Conceived as an experiment in cultural criticism, written along the fault lines that separate art, history and literary studies, ‘Sir Joshua Reynolds – The Painter in Society’ explores the ways in which portrait-painting is embedded in the social fabric of a given culture as well as in the social and professional transaction between the artist and his or her subject.