Gillray - A - G

Gillray : James (1756 - 1815) Gillray was one of five children, and the only one to survive to maturity. In 1770 he was apprenticed to Harry Ashby, a London writing in engraver, and five years later W. Humphrey published a few of Gillray's illustrations including satirical works. By the time Gillray commenced his career satire was old, but personal caricature was in its infancy. Other exponents in this form of art were soon overshadowed by Gillray's superior craftsmanship. His figures were full of vitality, titillating and reflective of some political crisis or private scandal. As his popularity increased so did demand by the public to see more of his work. In the rapidly changing politics of the late18th century he would produce a plate in twenty-four hours. Although sometimes overlooked his speech bubbles were elaborate and Gillray would spend considerable time composing and redrafting the text. 

Between 1791 to 1807 his career continued successfully in association with William and Hannah Humphrey. There after Gillray's health began to suffer. He eventually slipped into madness and died shortly before the Battle of Waterloo on June 1st 1815. Hannah, who had a close relationship with him nursed Gillray through out his final years and following his death the copper plates then formed part of Hannah's estate when she died in 1818. The executor's of Hannah's estate sold Gillray's painstakingly worked plates for there second hand copper weight. Hearing of this, the then publisher, Bohn who had previously expressed an interest in buying the plates set about purchasing them from a variety of different sources. Eventually acquiring over 500. In 1851 Bohn republished the engravings in a large folio volume, "The Works of James Gillray".