Auctions | June 21, 2017

Caricatures Including the Collections of the Late John Wardroper and the Late Charles Knevitt at Bloomsbury

475297-7_a_Archi-Tetes - Prince Charles.jpegTwo fascinating collections of caricatures make up Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale on 13th July 2017; one from journalist, writer and caricature historian, John Wardroper, and the other from architectural journalist and campaigner, Charles Knevitt. There will be around 150 lots on offer in the sale, ranging from the early 18th to the early 21st century.

William Hogarth (1697-1764), James Gillray (1756-1815), Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and George Cruikshank (1792-1878) are all well represented in the first collection, which focuses largely on the Regency and the Napoleonic era. With the exception of Hogarth this group was active from 1780 to 1830 a period for satirical prints which became known as the ‘golden age’. At this time, prints were mostly produced in London and sold singly by publishers and booksellers. By contrast, from the 1840s prints tended to be published as part of newspapers and in periodicals.  

One of the highlights in the auction is Thomas Rowlandson’s Fighting a Fire, dated 1800, (est. £3,000-4,000). This large watercolour depicts his keen eye for social observation.

The 1770s tradition of grotesque characters is exemplified in caricatures by Timothy Bobbin, such as “The Human Passion Delineated” and the set of Hogarth’s A Harlot’s Progress (issue 1744), (est. £800-£1,200). 

Honoré Daumier’s Gargantua is a scathing caricature of King Louis Phillippe as an obese giant being fed money by the starving poor, and excreting favours on the nobility. This rare plate was intended for distribution in the journal La Caricature in December, 1831, the year after Louis Philippe's accession to the throne. Its aim was to highlight the vast sums paid to the king. However, it was never published as the police and censors seized the publisher, Aubert, and obliged him to destroy the lithographic stone. Daumier, then only 24 years old, Aubert and the image's printer were all put on trial in February 1832, sentenced to 6 months in prison and heavily fined. Although the print never appeared in the publication, an article ridiculing the trial and describing the caricature was published.

Though the collection from Knevitt includes much later works, the great tradition of caricatures continues. Depictions of Prince Charles and Lady Diana feature in the sale. Knevitt was an advisor to Prince Charles and in 1985 he published One’s Life: A Cartoon Biography of HRH the Prince of Wales which became a top twenty bestseller. Both Knevitt and Wardroper recognised the power of humour as a vehicle for expressing contemporary views and opinions.  

Bloomsbury Auctions’ specialist Robert Hall comments “We are the only auction house offering dedicated sales of caricatures. Our last auction on this subject achieved some outstanding prices and have proven this to be a strong niche market. From a commercial point of view, they are robust… There is definitely a hunger for caricatures.”

Image: Louis Mario Hellman, Archi-Tetes - Prince Charles, an original drawing of Prince Charles separate to the artist's series of 24 caricatures, ink, pencil and watercolour on paper, 300 x 195mm, signed, framed and glazed Est. £350-£450