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James Gillray, The Plumb Pudding in Danger, © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum

James Gillray, The Plumb Pudding in Danger, © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum

Art - Exhibitions

James Gillray

04 May 2012 - 30 Jun 2012

Europe in turmoil, revolution overseas, Britain embroiled in long expensive wars, MPs accused of improper use of public funds, the press obsessed with celebrity gossip, and a “broad-bottomed” Conservative and Liberal alliance. Not Britain in 2012, but Britain of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, whose excesses were so memorably captured by the great English caricaturist, James Gillray (1756 – 1815).

Gillray is the genius of early popular satire in Britain. His public savaging of monarchy, politicians ‘polite society’ and church was unprecedented. Even today, when there are few no-go areas for the media, Gillray’s satire retains its ability to shock. He lived in an era that saw the loss of the American colonies,
Revolution and the subsequent Reign of Terror in France, the period also encompassed the movement to abolish slavery, and a monarch who lost his sanity – as did Gillray later in life himself.

He has left us some of the most abiding images of power humiliated, including a gargantuan, decadent Prince of Wales, a pint-sized Napoleon with major anger-management issues, a frugal and absurd King George III, and an emaciated hyperactive school boy Prime Minister – William Pitt the Younger.

As a caricaturist Gillray is still perhaps unsurpassed. A brilliant draftsman, he could distort bodies for comic effect, but leave viewers convinced of their reality. He restaged the events of the week in mock-heroic epics, borrowing from Shakespeare, Homer, Milton and the Old Testament, or parodying the
fashionable Baroque and Romantic painters of his day. His use of visual metaphor borders on the Surreal. A portly bishop rises in a hot air balloon (a recent invention). Members of the opposition appear as a vicious swarm of bees.

Although two centuries and their choice of medium separate them, Gillray shares with Mika Rottenberg a delight in comic excess and bodily exaggeration as a means of making serious political points.

The exhibition was selected from the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exceptional collection

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Added Monday, 07 May, 2012
An interesting exhibition - it is a pity that there are so few caricature exhibitions these day's. I have a caricature web site, (gjsaville-caricatures.co.uk) in the information section there are approximately 500 Gillray's. If you would like me to add a note on my home page about your exhibition I would be very happy to do so as most of the collectors in Britain visit my web site. However I will not do this unless I hear from you. Do you have a catalogue of this exhibition ? Regards. Graham Saville.
Graham Saville
 
Added Tuesday, 08 May, 2012
Hi Graham, many thanks. We would be happy for you to do this. We are not producing a catalogue for this exhibition but we have a selection of James Gillray books for sale in our shop.
smercer
 
Added Sunday, 06 May, 2012
Are you publishing any sort of accompanying leaflet/catalogue/guide to your Gillray Exhibition or any related publication? Please advise. Many thanks.
Neil Mundy
 
Added Tuesday, 08 May, 2012
Hi Neil, there is a free guide to accompany the exhibition but we are not producing a catalogue. Thanks.
smercer
 
Added Thursday, 03 May, 2012
Sounds good. Hope Iget to see it. Sorry that I can't manage the preview.
Charles Butler

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