In the autumn of 1759 Samuel Johnson urged his friend Joshua Reynolds to contribute a couple of essays to the weekly newspaper the Universal Chronicle under his own pseudonym of ‘The Idler’. Johnson’s request gave the painter a sleepless night but prompted some of Reynolds’s earliest art criticism. The neophyte critic chose as his first topic that old enemy and rival of the painter, the

critic or connoisseur. ‘To those who are resolved to be criticks in spite of nature’, he wrote in No. 75 of ‘The Idler’,

and at the same time have no great disposition to much reading and study, I would recommend to them to assume the character of connoisseur, which may be purchased at a much cheaper rate than that of a critick in poetry. The remembrance of a few names of painters, with their general characters, with a few rules of the Academy, which they may pick up among the painters, will go a great way towards making a very notable connoisseur.