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James Gillray (1756-1815)

James Gillray (1756-1815)

Having developed the skills of draughtsman and engraver, James Gillray established himself as the first professional caricaturist in Britain, and dominated the field. Breaking free of the rigid symbolic language of amateur caricaturists, he employed his rich imagination, and exaggerated the features of his targets, to powerful political ends.

James Gillray was born in Chelsea, which was then in the county of Middlesex, on 13 August 1756. He was the only surviving child of a disabled Scottish ex-soldier who joined the extreme protestant sect of the Moravian Brethren, and became sexton of its burial ground in Chelsea. in 1762, at the age of five, Gillray was sent to the Moravian school in Bedford, but returned to his parents two years later, when the school was closed for financial reasons. it is uncertain what further general education, if any, he received, but he certainly developed a talent for drawing while still young.

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