Broadsides! Caricature and the Royal Navy 1756-1815 at National Maritime Museum

By Ben Miller | 19 October 2012
An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of a ship admiral flailing overboard
James Gillray / John Miller, Fighting for the Dunghill, or, Jack Tar Setting Buonaparte. (caricature) (published 20 November 1798). This painting was a simple piece of anti-French propaganda© National Maritime Museum
Exhibition Preview: Broadsides! Caricature and the Royal Navy 1756-1815, National Maritime Museum, London, October 25 2012 – February 3 2013

Corruption, patronage, heroism, send-ups of Admiral Nelson, Rule Britannia pomp, celebrity, scandal and redemption all pop up in this small show.

An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of a naval figure standing arms folded
Gillray, James (artist), Humphrey, H (publisher), A True British Tar (May 1795). This is a caricature of Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence© National Maritime Museum
Its roots are in a period of the 18th century when events at sea were the stuff of public gossip and graphic satire was considered a form of high art through the works of James Gillray, George M Woodward and Thomas Rowlandson.

The caricatures themselves shaped public opinion, published hot on the heels of major events at prices the public could afford.

There are obvious comparisons to be made with modern-day spoofing and societal infatuation with celebrity, although the American war of Independence and the wars against revolutionary and Napoleonic France seem rather more incendiary.

A vast collection has also been made available online to augment the 20 prints on display.


More pictures:

An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of a large woman sitting in a bedroom
James Gillray, H Humphrey, Dido in Despair (published February 1801). A satire of the scandalous relationship between Nelson and Emma Hamilton© National Maritime Museum
An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of two figures talking about an empire
Walker (publisher), Britannia in Tribulation for the Loss of her Allies or John Bull's advice (August 1807). Highlighting national concern with the progress of the Napoleonic War of 1803-1815© National Maritime Museum
An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of a large man in a boat on a shore
John Bull Peeping into Brest (published June 1803). Extolling the might of British sea power over the French© National Maritime Museum
An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of various figures on a military boat
Mitchell, P (publisher). Count de Grasse Delivering his Sword to the Gallant Admiral Rodney (May 1782). This print refers to the decisive British victory of Admiral Rodney over Comte De Grasse, Admiral of the French fleet, at the Battle of the Saintes (1782)© National Maritime Museum
An image of a colourful 18th century caricature of various empire figures on a shore
James Gillray, H Humphrey, Physical Aid, - or - Britannia recover'd from a Trance: - also - the Patriotic Courage of Sheery Andrew; & a peep thro' the Fog (published March 1803). A recumbent and dishevelled Britannia cries out for assistance in the face of war© National Maritime Museum
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