James Gillray (1756–1815) was late Georgian Britain’s funniest, most inventive, and most celebrated graphic satirist and continues to influence cartoonists today. His exceptional drawing, matched by his flair for clever dialogue and amusing titles, won him unprecedented fame; his sophisticated designs often parodied artists such as William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, and Henry Fuseli, while he borrowed and wittily redeployed celebrated passages from William Shakespeare and John Milton to send up politicians in an age—as now—where society was fast changing, anxieties abounded, truth was sometimes scarce, and public opinion mattered.
Tim Clayton’s definitive biography explores Gillray’s life and work through his friends, publishers—the most important being women—and collaborators, aiming to identify those involved in inventing satirical prints and the people who bought them. Clayton thoughtfully explores the tensions between artistic independence, financial necessity, and the conflicting demands of patrons and self-appointed censors in a time of political and social turmoil.
Distributed for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
“James Gillray: A Revolution in Satire describes not just the caricaturist’s life and tragic end as creeping insanity took hold, but also the bracing effect he had on the art of satire itself.”—Michael Prodger, Times (UK), “Top 10 Art Books”
“Mr. Clayton’s well-researched . . . study makes a strong case for Gillray as the creator of a genre of graphic art—and as a forceful commentator. . . . [The] selection takes readers on a journey through Georgian politics and society with a guide who spared no one . . . and reminds us just how potent satire can be.”—William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal
“Tim Clayton’s new biography, the product of meticulous attention to the milieu printmakers worked in, suggests that in Gillray’s case circumstance and exceptional skill went hand in hand.”—Clare Bucknell, New York Review of Books
“A fascinating, well-rounded life of Gillray. . . . Clayton has done an impressive, thorough job.”—Peter Brookes, Times (UK)
“Exploring the tensions between patrons and censors, artistic independence, and financial necessity, this lavishly illustrated biography lights up a life and an anxious fast-changing society.”—Damian Thompson, World of Interiors, “Holiday Roundup”
“A wonderful book. . . . Clayton guides us through every aspect—technical, practical, commercial and collaborative—of platemaking and printmaking in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and explains the markets at home and abroad to whose demanding tastes Gillray had to cater.”—Freya Johnston, Literary Review
“Nuanced and convincing. . . . The level of detail in this massive and masterly book is breathtaking.”—Martin Rowson, The Guardian
“The diversity of Gillray’s work across four decades displays both a rare technical ability to imbue his prints with dynamic energy and an imaginative, excoriating wit.”—Nicholas Babbington, Apollo
“Clayton’s book is a magisterial study . . . and a biography that warrants comparison with the best ever done on an 18th-century artist.”—David Bromwich, London Review of Books