Back to Scholarship

James Gillray: Caricaturist

Like caricature itself, this site has rather odd and complicated orgins. From 1972 to 1974, I was living in West Berlin, Germany and working on a dissertation on Jane Austen under the direction of Earl Wasserman at Johns Hopkins University. I had just sent him the first chapter of that dissertation, when I received a letter from the English department informing me that Professor Wasserman had passed away very suddenly and that my dissertation would now be supervised by Professor Ronald Paulson.

I had never taken a course from Professor Paulson while I was on campus at Hopkins, so I began to read some of his work to acquaint myself with his perspective. I found myself fascinated with his books on Hogarth and Rowlandson and with the whole new world of 18th century caricature that had now been opened up to me.

After finishing my dissertation, I returned to the notes I had made about Rowlandson and wrote my first article on caricature: "Distance and Humor: The Art of Thomas Rowlandson" which Professor Paulson was kind enough to regard as "necessary corrective" to his point of view.

As my knowledge and interest in caricature expanded beyond Rowlandson, however, I began to realize that caricature is not a simple or monolithic genre, and that the definition which used Rowlandson or Bunbury as its primary representatives would be very different from one that centered upon Ghezzi or Beerbohm. This led to my second essay called "Four Modes of Caricature: Reflections upon a Genre" which was published after a considerable delay due to New York City funding problems in the Bulletin for Research in the Humanities.

But, alas, it was a difficult time for academics like myself as well as for academic publications, and by the time my second article was published, I had been forced to leave academics to support my family. I became a technical writer and later a Supervisor in the AT&T Labs (formerly Bell Labs) Technical Publications group at AT&T. And it was there in 1992/93 that a member of my group introduced me to a beta version of Mosaic, the prototype for the first web browser. It was a Eureka moment. And it immediately re-set my career in the direction of online publication and web site design and development. Within a few of years, I was no longer managing writers, but coders, graphic artists, and multimedia experts, and my concern was no longer with rhetoric and organization but HTML, code efficiency, and cross-browser compatibility.

Now that I am retired from AT&T, I am returning to my interest in caricature, but using the skills and knowledge I acquired in my work life to reach what I hope will be a more general audience. So the site you see before you is solely designed, produced, and written by me. Its mistakes, limitations, and omissions are likewise my responsibility. But in the spirit of Bell Labs, I hope that it inspires and facilitates further research on an amazing and under-rated artist, James Gillray.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, 18th Century