Oct 102012

Newton, self portrait

My post is on a splendid artist called Richard Newton who had his first drawing published when he was 13 or 14 and then proceeded to produce pictures at the rate of at least one a week for the next seven years. By the time he was 21 he had nearly 300 of his works published. Many of them are youthful, sometimes scurrilous, often irreverent, and are occasionally brilliant cartoons.

Let me start with his drawing of the inside of William Holland’s print shop, bedecked with prints (some of them recognizably by Newton himself). It is shown courtesy of the British Museum.

Why? Because William Holland published works which were considered seditious (Rights of Man) and was in prison in 1793, leaving the young Newton to run the shop for him.

Despite being kept busy running the shop he nevertheless landed useful commissions, including one to illustrate Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1795). He was later involved in providing illustrations to Tom Jones by Henry Fielding.

Richard Newton had been born in 1777. Some of his earliest works were drawings of George III – in particular having a dig at the royal low-brow taste in theatrical entertainment as here, where the King considers it appropriate to study clowns in close detail. They in turn inspect the monarch (hence the title of “Rival Clowns”). This was part of a series of prints showing the King’s  lack of good taste.

Richard also drew a number of anti-slavery caricatures as well as a series about the characters he met on his prison visits (i.e. when visiting Holland in Newgate). He moved around London – the British Museum site lists his addresses in Great Portland Street, (November 1791 to December 1792) 26 Wallbrook (the address given on prints published in 1794) Brydges Street, London (three houses in this street near Drury Lane belonged to Newton’s father, where Richards lived from early 1797 onwards, apparently sharing the house with the Hixon family, copperplate printers).

The youthful artist was not averse to puns (as in this picture entitled Night Mare). A man awakes to find a demon sitting on his wife in bed, smoking a pipe. At the window the ‘night mare’ makes an appearance.



See also “A peep into Brest with a navel review”












The lad also liked lavatorial humour as in “Treason”, and in “John Bull in Paris between a shower and a stink”.
















Fashions were ridiculed as in Tippers of 1796, as were the ogling males in Madame Parisot.












I rather like his picture of the barber’s shop; in “Shave for a penny” the poor guy in the chair gets cut by the barber, who has been distracted by the man calling round to collect spare hair with which to make wigs.

Richard’s prodigious and bawdy output included these three prophetic cartoons showing Death: the irony is that at the age of 21 death did indeed come knocking at his door. He died of typhus (popularly known as jail fever) in 1798. It was a huge loss to the world of satire, because here was a man with a big talent.



  2 Responses to “Richard Newton – a caricaturist who never grew old.”


    so much talent – what, I wonder, have we lost by this young man’s untimely death!


    Died so young! So very sad. Really love these prints you put up.

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