"Fancy Pictures," which were a combination portrait and genre scene, became very popular at the end of the eighteenth century. One type consisted of middle-class patrons, dressed as peasants or farmers, in staged scenes of rural life. In this large canvas painted for Mr. Macklin, a London print seller, Reynolds represents his patron's wife spinning, his daughter feeding chickens, her friend Miss Potts carrying a sheaf of wheat on her head, and the family dog waiting attentively, all outside a country cottage. The grand scale, formal composition, poses, and coloration are all reminiscent of Italian painting, which Reynolds championed as first president of the Royal Academy, but the graceful light and sentiment are his personal invention.
Artist Joshua Reynolds, English, 1723-1792
  • The Cottagers
  • The Gleaners (alternate title)
  • The Macklin Family (alternate title)
Date 1788
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Unframed: 95 × 71 inches (241.3 × 180.3 cm)
Framed: 112 × 87 1/2 × 7 1/4 inches (284.5 × 222.3 × 18.4 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Mrs. K. T. Keller
Accession Number 55.278
Department European Painting
On View British S361, Level 3 (see map)
commissioned by Mr. Thomas Macklin (London, England);
until early 19th century, by descent;
until at least 1814, purchased by Robert Gosling (London, England);
by descent to his grandson, Major W. S. Gosling (Hassobury, England);
until at least 1899, by inheritance to Mrs. Gosling [wife of Major W.S. Gosling?];
(French Art Galleries, Inc., New York, New York, USA) or possibly (Spink's);
purchased by Mrs. K.T. Teller;
August 1955-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Malone, Edmond. The Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, Knight; Late President of the Royal Academy; Containing his Discourses, Idlers, a Journey to Flanders and Holland, and his Commentary on Du Fresnoy’s Art of Painting, vol. 1. London, 1798, p. lxviii.

Catalogue of Pictures by the Late Sir Joshua Reynolds. Exh. cat., British Institution. London, 1813, p. 16, no. 23. [as "The Gleaners," lent by William Gosling, Esq.]

Exhibition of the Works by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Exh. cat., The Grosvenor Gallery. London, 1883, pp. 78–79, no. 185.

Phillips, Claude. Sir Joshua Reynolds. London, 1894, p. 353.

Graves, Algernon and William Vine Cronin. A History of the Works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., vol. 2. London, 1899, p. 603. [as "Mrs. and Miss Macklin with Miss Potts"]

Armstrong, Walter. Sir Joshua Reynolds. New York, 1900, p. 218.

Whitley, William T. Art in England, 1800–1820. Cambridge, 1928, pp. 10–11.

Waterhouse, Ellis K. Reynolds. London, 1941, p. 80.

Richardson, Edgar P. "A Fancy Picture." Bulletin of the DIA 35, no. 1. (1955–1956): pp. 2–4, front cover (ill.).

"The Cottagers." Connoisseur 137, no. 554 (June 1956): p. 22 (ill.).

Boase, T. S. R. "Macklin and Bowyer." Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 26, no. 1/2 (1963): pp. 148–177, p. 150–151.

Cormack, Malcolm. "The Ledgers of Sir Joshua Reynolds." Walpole Society 42 (1968–1970): pp. 105–169, p. 158.

Cummings, Frederick J. and Charles H. Elam, eds. The Detroit Institute of Arts Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 119 (ill.).

Shawe-Taylor, Desmond. The Georgians: Eighteenth-Century Portraiture & Society. London, 1990, pp. 197–200 (ill.).

Postle, Martin. Sir Joshua Reynolds: The Subject Pictures. Cambridge, 1995, p. 48; pp. 240–246 (ill.); p. 321, n. 91; pp. 339–340, n. 11.

Mannings, David. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, vol. 1. New Haven, 2000, pp. 315–316, no. 1167.

Mannings, David. Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, vol. 2. New Haven, 2000, pp. 126, 570 (ill.).

Bryant, Julius. Kenwood: Paintings in the Iveagh Bequest. New Haven, 2003, p. 381 (ill.).