On Tuesday 13th October Dr Richard Gaunt, from Nottingham University, delivered a lively presentation on his publication ‘Peel in Caricature: The ‘Political Sketches’ of John Doyle (‘HB’),’ at Tamworth Town Hall.
The presentation, well received by an audience which included the Mayor of Tamworth Cllr Maureen Gant and her consort Mr Ken Gant, put the artist’s work in the context of both the artistic and technical developments in caricature which occurred throughout the nineteenth century. This period encapsulated a move from the hard edged etchings of earlier satirists such as Gillray, to the softer lines made possible by lithography.
The combination of the gentle humour and scurrilous undertones characteristic of John Doyle’s work was celebrated. Dr Gaunt presented a number of examples from the artist’s portfolio featuring Peel, which passed satirical judgement on the major political events of the time. These included caricatures featuring the role of Peel (and his contemporaries) in Catholic emancipation, free trade and the introduction of the police force. Excerpts from correspondence between the artist and Peel, when the latter was Prime Minister, were also shared with the audience.
Dr Gaunt highlighted how caricature became increasingly commercialised as an art form which (notwithstanding the scurrilous window displays enjoyed by all classes) had previously been marketed primarily at the metropolitan elite.
Following the presentation and questions from the audience, refreshments were served and Dr Gaunt participated in a book signing.