Pair of Thomas Rowlandson, Doctor Syntax Antique Engravings
Thomas Rowlandson (1756 - 1827) was a student in the Royal Academy, studied in Paris at the age of sixteen, and in 1775 exhibited his work for the first time at the Royal Academy. He established a studio as a portrait painter supplementing his income by drawing caricatures. Rowlandson quickly gained celebrity as a humorous caricatures and critical commentator of the social scene, and is regarded as one of the best-known political lampoonists and cartoonist of his day.
In 1809, Rowlandson offered the well known British print seller, Rudolph Ackerman, a number of drawings that represented Doctor Syntax, an old clergyman and schoolmaster, oblivious to the realities of the world around him, in love with the fine arts, traveling during his holidays in quest of the picturesque. Rowlandson was parodying the English artist, clergyman, schoolmaster, and author, William Gilpin (1724 1804), who wrote a series of picturesque journeys through England of landscape pictures and flattering prose. Rowlandsons Tour of Doctor Syntax illustrated English 18th century life, creating comic images of familiar social types of his day, ranging from the ridiculously pretentious, to the merely pathetic. Rowlandson's designs were usually executed in outline with a reed pen and delicately washed with color. They were then etched by the artist on copper and afterward aquatintedusually by a professional engraver, the impressions being finally colored by hand.
Rowlandsons drawings seemed perfect for Ackermans new Poetical Magazine, however Ackerman requested that a narrative accompany the illustrations, so Rowlandson commissioned British writer, William Combe (1741 1823) to compose the whimsical narratives to Rowlandsons renderings. In so doing, Rowlandson provided a colored sketch a month to Combe.
Some of Rowlandson most enduring works are from the plates drawn for the Doctor Syntax series; Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of the Picturesque (1812), Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of Consolation (1820) and, Tour of Doctor Syntax in Search of a Wife (1821). Although originally printed as a magazine series, the Tours were such a big hit that a completed book version was published in 1812, becoming more popular than the series. Within twelve months it passed through five large editions, published many times over a period of about eighty years.