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The golden age of satire? Late-Georgian satirical prints Exhibition

Newstead Abbey, Newstead Abbey Park, NOTTINGHAM, Nottinghamshire, NG15 8NA
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Newstead Abbey

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27 July – 6 October 2019
Newstead Abbey 
Usual admission prices to Newstead Abbey apply. From 27 July, throughout the Summer holidays Under 16's get free entry with a full paying adult. 


The first modern political cartoons were invented in Britain in the second half of the eighteenth century, a period often referred to as the ’golden age’ of satire. Through wit and grotesque exaggeration, a small group of talented printmakers ruthlessly exposed the flaws of the rich and powerful.

The Georgian monarchy was a popular target for satire. Printmakers frequently mocked King George III, portraying him as a buffoon, and attacked his sons for their decadent and self-indulgent lifestyles. Aware of the potential dangers of unchecked criticism, the government kept a watchful eye on the industry and moved to suppress prints and publishers it considered dangerously subversive.

Following the British Museum’s major 2018 exhibition, this British Museum Spotlight Loan explores how a small group of printmakers – Gillray, Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Newton – mercilessly skewered the worst excesses of the British monarchy between about 1790 and 1820. Set against a febrile atmosphere of reform, revolution and war, these prints held a mirror to a dysfunctional and deeply unpopular institution.

The golden age of satire? Late-Georgian satirical prints will be displayed in the beautiful settings of the King Charles II rooms at Newstead Abbey, alongside Nottingham Museums own collection of satirical objects, including Lord Byron’s own scathing (often hilarious) letters, all selected in response to the themes of the British Museum spotlight exhibition.

Highlights include James Gillray’s much imitated Fashionable Contrasts (1792), an outrageously provocative satire that summons thoughts of the utmost vulgarity, entirely through the size and angle of two pairs of shoes. A generation later, in 1812, George Cruikshank depicted the Prince of ‘Whales’ as a bloated cetacean wallowing in the ‘sea of politics.’

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