Reinagle entered the Royal Academy Schools, London in 1769 before becoming a pupil of Allan Ramsay, whom he assisted on various portraits of George III and Queen Charlotte and for whom he later worked as deputy. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1773 and showed largely portrait works until 1785, when he diversified into animal painting. From 1805 onwards, landscapes were his main subjects.
Philip Reinagle was the head of a family of painters as his son, daughters and grandson also became well-known in the art world.
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