Thomas Rowlandson was an English printmaker and caricaturist from the Georgian Era. He was a prolific artist, made famous by his caricatures, as well as by his illustrations for distinguished authors. Some of his best-known artworks are: The Comet, The Fish Dinner, and A View of Ghent, to name only a few.
Thomas Rowlandson was born in July 1756, in London, England. Life became difficult for his family after his father declared bankruptcy when young Thomas was only two years old. The family moved to Richmond. After his uncle’s death, his aunt Jane provided funds and accommodation that allowed Thomas to attend school.
Rowlandson attended a rather distinguished school at the time, located on Soho Square, London. During this period, Rowlandson would already display interest in drawing, especially caricatures of his scholars, covering the edges of his schoolbook. An example of what was to come of him as an artist.
Around 1766, Rowlandson attended the Soho Academy. Although the Academy was a business-oriented school, scholars suggest that he probably took drawing lessons there, for upon leaving the school in 1772, the artist promptly enrolled at the Royal Academy. Before entering the Royal Academy, however, the artist spent some time in Paris studying the human figure and developing his caricature skills.
Thomas Rowlandson studied at the Royal Academy until 1778. He was regarded as a quite promising student, even receiving a silver medal for a bas-relief artwork. Although promising, the artists soon plunged into poverty, much for his compulsive gambling. During this period, Rowlandson, inspired by Henry William Bunbury and James Gillray, saw in caricature the means for him to earn enough money to live.
Soon, Rowlandson was employed by Rudolph Ackermann, who was a prominent art publisher. Rowlandson produced many series of engravings for Ackermann’s publications. One of the said series, illustrating verses by Dr. William Combe, became one of his most famous artworks. The artist also produced a number of erotic prints.
Rowlandson also illustrated works by distinguished authors, such as Laurence Sterne, Oliver Goldsmith, and Tobias George Smollett. The artist depicted an embodiment of the United Kingdom, John Bull, created by many British satyrical artists, such as George Cruikshank and James Gillray. The said figure of John Bull is much like Uncle Sam for the United States.
Thomas Rowlandson died in London, on April 28, 1827, after an extended period fighting an illness.