The Mother of Pictorial Satire
Although most well-known cartoonists have been men, one of the most influential early figures in the field was a woman, Mary Darly. Cartoon historian Mark Bryant looks at her influence as an artist, publisher and educator.
Though often overlooked in histories of the subject, women have played a significant part in the development of cartoons and caricature in Britain from its beginnings in the days of Hogarth almost 300 years ago right up to the present. Perhaps the best-known early figure is James Gillray’s publisher and close friend Mrs Hannah Humphrey (c.1745–1818), who not only produced a great many of his most celebrated prints but also gave him lodgings above her shop until he died. A number of others are listed in the British Museum’s huge collection of Political and Personal Satires in its Department of Prints & Drawings, a large part of which was itself catalogued by a woman, Dr Dorothy George. However, the mother of them all, perhaps, was the eighteenth-century artist, engraver, writer, printseller, publisher and teacher, Mary Darly (fl.1756-79), who also wrote, illustrated and published the first ever manual on how to draw caricatures.