Gillray was an incredibly prolific artist and draughtsman. The auction of the final stock of Humphrey’s print shop in 1835 contained numerous lots consisting of sketchbooks, albums and bundles of loose papers; covered in drawings, notes and paintings. Many of these items have now disappeared and were probably destroyed as being of little interest to collectors. Consequently, examples of Gillray’s artwork are rare and a serious attempt to catalogue his drawings and paintings has yet to be undertaken.
This album leaf was originally part of the famous collection of Gillray’s work which belonged to the American cartoonist Draper Hill. Hill sold off a large part of his collection back in 2001 and timed the sale to coincide with the launch of a major exhibition of Gillray’s work at the Tate in London. The popularity of the sale seems to have surprised everyone and in some cases resulted in prints selling for between five and ten times their original estimate. This watercolour was evidently purchased by an Italian collector and it’s recently surfaced again in a forthcoming sale in Florence.
Gillray’s sketchbooks were full of these small portrait studies and it would appear as though some of them were used as the basis for more fully formed character studies, such as the pictures of the flower girl and the drunken barrow woman that appeared in the Tate exhibition catalogue.
Other examples of Gillray’s artwork can be found in our archive. Please click here to link to the post.