Detail from Playing in Parts by James Gillray, after a watercolor by Brownlow North, 1801. Dayton C. Miller Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress.
after a watercolor drawing by Brownlow North, amateur artist, 1778-1829
This is a caricature in which five amateur musicians - a woman and four men - perform in a drawing room. The woman is in white, seated in the center, and plays a piano. A cellist is at the left, a violinist is at the right and two flutists, playing one-keyed flutes, stand behind her. Guests in attendance are in the left and right background, while a dog sits at the right, howling, over music scores scattered on the carpet.
The artist is James Gillray (1756-1815), and the scene is based on a watercolor drawing by Brownlow North (1778-1829), who signed his name with a compass pointing north. Brownlow North's original watercolor, on which Playing in Parts is based, is in the Print Rooms of the British Museum. Gillray followed the original watercolor more closely in another of his etchings, Ars-Musica, which was published by Hannah Humphrey on February 16, 1800. Though Playing in Parts is based on the same watercolor by North, the scene has been expanded further by Gillray. See 296/B and 675/B, also by or after James Gillray.
About the Artists
James Gillray, painter, draughtsman, caricaturist, engraver and etcher, 1756-1815
James Gillray was born in Chelsea, Middlesex, near London in 1756, and he died in London in 1815. He was brought up in a strict Moravian household but joined a group of strolling actors as a young man. By 1778, he had enrolled in the Royal Academy School in London as a student of Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815), a stipple engraver. (See works by Bartolozzi in the Miller collection, 443/R and 577/K.) He did produce a few stipple engravings as book illustrations for Tom Jones by Fielding (1780), and The Deserted Village by Goldsmith (1784), and painted some miniature portraits, including his own self-portrait. However, it is as a caricaturist that Gillray is most well known, especially for his witty political satires of the 1780s and 1790s, though he also produced social and personal satirical prints. The prints were popular and were sold in the shops of printsellers in London. After 1791, he was represented exclusively by Hannah Humphrey, a publisher who eventually settled at 27 St. James's Street, and with whom Gillray shared lodgings until his death in 1815. In all, Gillray produced about a thousand caricatures, two-thirds being political satires and one-third being personal satires. Occasionally, amateur artists such as the Rev. John Sneyd, M.A. (1763-1835), the Rector at Elford from 1792 to 1835, or Brownlow North (1778-1829), supplied drawings on which Gillray's etchings were based. Gillray's last signed plate is dated 1809. After this date, his health declined precipitously. His vision deteriorated and he had a mental collapse, his last years being described as a descent into madness. He was cared for by Mrs. Humphrey until his death.
Brownlow North, amateur artist, 1778-1829
Biographical information on Brownlow North is provided in the British Museum catalogues by Mary Dorothy George. His life dates are given in the Index of Artists in Vol. VII, page 736, where is it also mentioned that he signed his name with a compass pointing to the north. He was an amateur artist, son of the Bishop of Winchester (also named Brownlow North, 1741-1820), who studied at Cambridge. Gillray first made an etching after a North drawing in 1800, though Baldrey etched some of North's drawings while he was a student at Cambridge in 1798 and 1799.
- See Mary Dorothy George, Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. Vols. VII and VIII. [London] by order of the Trustees, 1942 and 1947. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE55.L7A3 Reference. A full description and additional bibliography for Playing in Parts are given in Vol. VIII, page 43, cat. no. 9766. Compare it with the entry for Ars-Musica in Vol. VII, page 644, cat. no. 9586. [back to article]
- See an excellent biography of Gillray by Anita McConnell and Simon Heneage, "James Gillray (1756-1815), caricaturist," in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography which is available online (by subscription only). For an overview of Gillray's work as well as other British caricaturists in the 18th century, see the Introductions to volumes VII and VIII of Mary Dorothy George's Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. [London] by order of the Trustees, 1942 and 1947. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division. LC call number: NE55.L7A3 Reference. Other fine sources on Gillray are: 1) Draper Hill, Mr. Gillray, the Caricaturist: A Biography. London: The Phaidon Press, 1965. LC call number: NC1479.G5H5 1965a; 2) James Gillray 1756-1815: Drawings and Caricatures, with an introduction by Draper Hill. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1967, exhibition catalogue. LC call number: NC1479.G5A7; 3) The Satirical Etchings of James Gillray, edited by Draper Hill. New York: Dover Publications, 1976, which contains 104 illustrations of Gillray's prints, with comments. LC call number: NC1479.G5H52 1976; 4) Richard T. Godfrey, James Gillray: The Art of Caricature, with an essay by Mark Hallet. London: Tate Publishing, 2001, exhibition catalogue. This is not in the Library of Congress. A copy is available at the National Gallery of Art, call number: N44.G4839G63 2001; 5) The National Portrait Gallery, London, launched a major cataloguing project of Gillray's works, ninety percent of which is in their collections. A description of the project is given in an article, "Cataloguing Projects at the NPG," in Print Quarterly 20(March 2003): 78-80. National Gallery of Art, call number: N1.P838. Many of Gillray's works from the National Portrait Gallery, London, are available online (search for Gillray). [back to article]
- This information on Brownlow North comes from Mary Dorothy George's Introduction in the same source, Vol. VII, page xlvi. The information on the Rev. John Sneyd, who was a friend of the politician and later prime minister George Canning (1770-1827), comes from Draper Hill, Mr. Gillray, the Caricaturist: A Biography, page 56. Gillray's friendship with Sneyd and Canning, who arranged a pension for Gillray, is covered in Hill's chapter on Canning on pages 56 to 80. Other biographical sources on Brownlow North can be found in Huon L. Mallalieu, The Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists up to 1920, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club, 2002. LC call no. ND1928.M27 2002. The brief entry for Brownlow North appears in vol. 2, p. 78, which states: "North, Brownlow 1778-1829. The son of Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester, and younger brother of the 6th Earl of Guilford. He was an amateur artist who supplied Gillray with subjects for his prints." His life dates and relationship as the younger brother of the 6th Earl of Guilford are confirmed in Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage..., 107th ed., vol. 2, p. 1692, under Guilford, Francis, 6th Earl, which states: "2b Brownlow; b 1778; d 28 Sept 1829." LC call number: CS420.B85. These last two biographical sources are courtesy of Erika Ingham, Assistant Curator, Archive and Library, National Portrait Gallery, London, 11 January 2006. [back to article]