Every so often I post about items which I find interesting but which probably wouldn’t normally feature on a blog dedicated to satirical prints of the long eighteenth-century. I do this partly to stress the links that existed between the trade in caricature prints and the wider contemporary markets for art, books, ceramics and other manufactured goods, and partly to add a bit of variety to my posts. I’m also particularly keen on documenting images of items which are being sold on the private market, giving fellow enthusiasts the opportunity to view auction items before they disappear into an anonymous dining room or study for years to come.
This is why I felt it was worth writing out a quick post to accompany these images of an oil painting by John Doyle, which will be going under the hammer on the Continent in a few weeks time. Readers of this blog will of course know Doyle by his pseudonym ‘HB’, a moniker he adopted while pursuing a highly successful career as a political caricaturist during the 1820s, 30s and 40s. Sadly Doyle’s work tends to be overlooked by historians, who often compare him unfavourably to more unconventional contemporaries such as William Heath, Robert Seymour and C.J. Grant. While it may be tempting to dismiss Doyle’s preference for realism and refinement as being symptomatic of the transition (some would say decline) which occurred in British satirical print-making during the second quarter of the nineteenth-century, it is an unarguable fact that his works were far more highly valued by contemporaries than those of any of the artists mentioned above. Indeed, in his commercial success may well have rivaled (or possibly even exceeded) that of George Cruikshank by the end of the 1830s, when Doyle acquired a large house near Hyde Park and began hobnobbing with Dickens, Scott, Thackeray and the rest of early-Victorian London’s literati.
John Doyle was one of the many caricaturists who had drifted into satirical print-making while pursuing a career as a serious artist. He had a reasonably good pedigree, having served as a pupil of the landscape painter Gaspare Gabrielli and studied under John Comer Field at the Royal Dublin Society, but failed to establish himself as a major figure on the metropolitan art scene after relocating to London in 1822. By 1827 Doyle was engraving satirical plates for the printseller Thomas McLean’s shop in the Haymarket and it was to be in this field that he would achieve his greatest critical and commercial success. His Political Sketches of HB series was to remain in continuous publication from 1829 until 1849 and is possibly the only significant body of satirical work to have survived the transition from the Georgian to the Victorian era.
While he may never broken through to foremost ranks of the late-Hanoverian art world, Doyle was still an artist of considerable talent and would continue to produce and sell paintings for the remainder of his life. He painted this nocturnal landscape scene in 1828, a year which perhaps marks the point at which the focus of his career transferred from the world of high art to that of commercial publishing. The Italianate style of the picture hints at Gabrielli’s influence on Doyle’s development as an artist and it is also heavily indebted to the works of Sebastian Pether and the young J.M.W. Turner. The painting is signed and dated lower right ‘J. Doyle 1828′ and is expected to fetch somewhere in the region of £4,000 – £5,000.