About the artist

Thomas Rowlandson was born on the 13th of July in Old Jewry in London City in the year 1756.

Rowlandson was an English artist and caricaturist.

Baptized on the 23rd of July in 1757 in St. Mary Colechurch, Thomas was the son of Mary and William Rowlandson.

His father, William, had been a weaver, but had moved into trading supplies for the textile industry and after overextending himself was declared bankrupt in 1759. Life became difficult for him in London and, in late 1759, he moved his family to Richmond, North Yorkshire

Thomas' uncle James died in 1764, and his widow Jane probably provided both the funds and accommodation which allowed Thomas to attend school in London.His father, William, had been a weaver, but had moved into trading supplies for the textile industry and after overextending himself was declared bankrupt in 1759. Life became difficult for him in London and, in late 1759, he moved his family to Richmond, North Yorkshire. Thomas' uncle James died in 1764, and his widow Jane probably provided both the funds and accommodation which allowed Thomas to attend school in London.

He was educated at the school of Dr Barvis in Soho Square, then "an academy of some celebrity," where one of his classmates was Richard Burke, son of the politician Edmund Burke. As a schoolboy, Rowlandson "drew humourous characters of his master and many of his scholars before he was ten years old," covering the margins of his schoolbooks with his artwork.

In 1772, Rowlandson was a student at the Royal Academy in London. During his six years of studying, he spent some time in Paris as well.

When Rowlandson didn't have enough money and his friends and examples of James Gillray and Henry William Bunbury suggested caricature as a means of earning a living, Rowlandson started doing that. His drawing of Vauxhall, shown in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1784, had been engraved by Pollard, and the print was a success. Rowlandson was largely employed by Rudolph Ackermann, the art publisher, who in 1809—issued in his Poetical Magazine The Schoolmaster's Tour—a series of plates with illustrative verses by Dr. William Combe. They were the most popular of the artist's works. Also engraved by Rowlandson himself in 1812, and published under the title of the Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, they had attained a fifth edition by 1813, and were followed in 1820 by Dr Syntax in Search of Consolation, and in 1821 by the Third Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of a Wife. He also produced a body of erotic prints and woodcuts.

The same collaboration of designer, author and publisher appeared in the English Dance of Death, issued in 1814–16 and in the Dance of Life, 1817. Rowlandson also illustrated Smollett, Goldsmith and Sterne, and his designs will be found in The Spirit of the Public Journals (1825), The English Spy (1825), and The Humorist (1831).

Rowlandson's designs were usually done in outline with the reed-pen, and delicately washed with colour. They were then etched by the artist on the copper, and afterwards aquatinted—usually by a professional engraver, the impressions being finally coloured by hand. As a designer he was characterised by his facility and ease of draughtsmanship. He dealt less frequently with politics than his fierce contemporary, Gillray, but commonly touching, in a rather gentle spirit, the various aspects and incidents of social life. His most artistic work is to be found among the more careful drawings of his earlier period; but even among the exaggerated caricature of his later time we find hints that this master of the humorous might have attained to the beautiful had he so willed.

His work included a personification of the United Kingdom named John Bull who was developed from about 1790 in conjunction with other British satirical artists such as Gillray and George Cruikshank.

Rowlandson died at his lodgings in London, after a long period of illness, on 21 April 1827. He was buried at St Paul's in Covent Garden on 28 April 1827 at the age of 72 years.