This portrait of the novelist and playwright Dr Oliver Goldsmith (1728?–1774) was painted by the foremost portrait artist of the era, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792). It is one of a pair exhibited at the Royal Academy by Reynolds in 1770; the other likeness was of their mutual friend Dr Samuel Johnson (1709–1784).

Goldsmith, Johnson and Reynolds were key members of a dinner club, known simply as ‘The Club’, a select group of wits and literary luminaries who met regularly at the Turk’s Head tavern in London’s Soho.

Reynolds's sister Fanny (1729–1807) praised the portrait of Goldsmith: ‘Sir Joshua, I have often thought, never exhibited a more striking proof of his excellence in portrait-painting, than in giving dignity to Dr Goldsmith’s countenance, and yet preserving its strong likeness’.[1]

[1] Johnsonian Miscellanies, ed. by G B Hill (London, 1897), Vol. ii, p. 268.