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Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827)

Thomas Rowlandson raised comic art to a new level by representing the panorama of contemporary life with almost unparalleled fluency – adopting lyricism or incisiveness as best fitted the subject. And, in capturing an abundance of picturesque detail, his work provided a parallel to the novels of Henry Fielding or Laurence Sterne.

Thomas Rowlandson was born in Old Jewry, in the City of London, on 14 July 1757, to a merchant in wool and silk. In consequence of the bankruptcy of his father, he and his younger sister, Elizabeth, went to live with their uncle, James, and a prosperous Spitalfields silk weaver and his French wife, Jane. Following the death of his uncle in 1764, he moved to 4 Church Street (now Romilly Street) Soho with his widowed aunt, and attended the Soho Academy.

From the age of 16, Rowlandson studied art at the Royal Academy Schools, Somerset House, and received permission to draw at the Duke of Richmond’s sculpture gallery in Whitehall. Between 1775 and 1787, he exhibited both subject pictures and caricatures, in pen and wash, at the Royal Academy, winning a silver medal in 1777, and making his name seven years later with the ambitious
Vauxhall Gardens (V&A).

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