Boy Wonder of the Golden Age

Mark Bryant sketches the brief life of one of 18th-century London’s most prodigious and daring draughtsmen.

On February 1st, 1809, the celebrated artist Thomas Rowlandson, who was one of the stars of the so-called ‘Golden Age of Caricature’, lampooned the elaborate dress of dockyard prostitutes in a print entitled ‘Launching a Frigate’. It was based on a drawing by one of Britain’s most original caricaturists, who began work at the age of 14 and later succeeded Lord Byron’s uncle as the main draughtsman of a top London printseller. One of the first British artists to draw Napoleon Bonaparte (before James Gillray), he was also a pioneer of the modern comic strip, worked as a book illustrator and went on to set up his own printshop in Covent Garden. In all he produced more than 300 prints before he died in 1798, barely in his twenties. His name was Richard Newton.

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