18th – 19th Century British Caricatures « Kondase Keskus

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18th – 19th Century British Caricatures

February 16 – April 17, 2011.

William Hogarth (1697-1764) and John Kay (1742-1826) were primarily caricaturists and part of the school of social and political satirists so popular in 18th and 19th Britain.

The exhibit fills two galleries at the Kondas Museum: one for Hogarth with 19 of his copper and steel engravings published from 1792 to 1850 from a variety of editions of his works, and one for Kay with 18 of his original copper engravings from the 1837, 1842 and 1877 editions of his works, the only examples of his work in existence..

In order to complete the picture of the caricaturists of the period, four of Hogarth’s and Kay’s contemporaries are also exhibited, several original prints each from the work o Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), George Cruikshank (1792-1878), James Gillray (1756-1815) and Robert Seymour (1798-1736) .

William Hogarth was one of the leading figures in the social satire school of Britain. His works were primarily caricatures focusing on the social / political foibles and escapades of the leading and most notorious figures of his time, either as paintings, watercolors, and engraved prints or as book illustrations. Over time, scores of volumes of his work were published, both collections of his works and his illustrations of other works. Collections of Hogarth grace the archives and galleries of Europe and America, as well as the volumes of the history of art. His style is sophisticated and his draftsmanship is consistently impeccable, easily identified by any student of the arts. He is considered one of the most original of all British artists.

John Kay, on the other hand, was untrained and unlettered. He taught himself to draw as a troubled youngster living in a difficult situation with relatives after the death of his mother. He apprenticed as a barber early, hoping for an honorable escape from his situation. He ended up with a barber shop in downtown Edinburgh and began making miniature paintings, then copper etchings of his patrons as well as the people who frequented the streets outside his shop. By the time of his death he had created some 900 copper etched miniature “portraits” of Edinburgers, but he had never published and had only several local exhibits.

Kay was an “outsider,” not commonly viewed and certainly not acknowledged as an artist at all. It was not until several years after his death that his widow sold his copper plates to one John Paton who gathered the resources to publish some 300 of his prints, originally in 1837, then in 1842 and finally in 1877 Then and yet today, John Kay’s work was considered too naïve and simplistic to be called art. His craftsmanship is lacking at best but his rendering of his subjects is brilliant and his characters embody a remarkable and unique style of visual metaphor.

Hogarth’s notoriety was strongly established during his lifetime and has maintained itself over the centuries. Kay, however, continues to have but a small number of followers, but they consider his work to rank with the finest and most authentic “outsider” art of the western world.

The Kondas exhibit is a rare opportunity to not only view vintage and original prints of important artists, but also to experience naïve/outsider art in the context of the art world.

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