James Gillray
May 10, 2003 9:04 PM   Subscribe

James Gillray (1757-1815) One of the all-time great caricaturists, now extensively digitized by the National Portrait Gallery. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the links.) For other good collections, see the offerings from Bucknell and the Tate. Today, the most immediately recognizable Gillray is The Plumb-Pudding in Danger, although I'm quite fond of Promis'd Horrors of the French Invasion. A few of Gillray's famous French Revolution caricatures are featured at the Napoleonic Guide; for images with commentary, see this page by the Romanticist Duncan Wu. I've always wanted to own a Gillray, although I'm not sure that I'd want Presages of the Millenium--a particularly creepy Pitt as Death--on my wall.
posted by thomas j wise (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The NPG only provides low-res versions of the images, and if you want to use one on your site or elsewhere, you need to "apply" for a license and they will tell you how much it will cost. We are dealing with images from the 18th and 19th century here, obviously all in the public domain. These people want to claim copyright for digitizing them. Sorry, but that's not "digitization" in my book -- it's cultural piracy.
posted by Eloquence at 9:31 PM on May 10, 2003

I'm a great admirer of Gillray's work, and am delighted that these prints have all been scanned for posterity, but likewise frustrated by the NPG's image-licensing policy. Thanks for the links, TJW.
posted by misteraitch at 12:17 AM on May 11, 2003

Thanks for this one, TJW.
If you like Gillray, you may also enjoy Hogarth.
posted by plep at 4:38 AM on May 11, 2003

Thank you, thomas j. wise. Your posts are absolutely wonderful.
posted by hama7 at 6:38 AM on May 11, 2003

Gillray's superb, and utterly distinctive. It reminds you that back in the day, the myth of the polite and genteel society was just that. I love 'The Gout', because it's a reminder to the journalistic profession. (Though 'Presages' was the answer to one of the Indy's competitions last month; I got it straight away, but like tjw, wouldn't want it on my wall.)

As for the licensing policy: well, I'm ambivalent about it. The scanning was done with funding from the DCMS, and thus was paid for by British taxpayers, so I don't feel too outraged if those who haven't indirectly contributed to the digitisation process have to cough up. They can always buy their own originals and scan them. On the other hand, this is the nation's collection; those in and around London who want to see the real things can always make a list and arrange for a viewing at the print room. Digitising the originals isn't a replacement for that service.

Anyway, I'm a fan of (David) Low, who had the posthumous honour of being exhibited in Westminster Hall not so long ago (you may remember the Queen Mum being exhibited there in April of last year). There's a line running from Gillray to Steve Bell -- who happily acknowledges Gillray's influence -- and the best political cartoonists of the British dailies, such as Bell and Rowson, say more, and say it more elegantly, than most of their verbiose colleagues.
posted by riviera at 2:15 PM on May 11, 2003

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