||The Bassoon with a FrenchHorn Accompanyment
||Beef à la Mode
Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) was a superb draughtsman and a master
watercolorist, whose delicately tinted landscapes were often reproduced
in aquatint. He excelled in the depiction of the English countryside and
helped to launch the vogue for picturesque rural scenery which he
burlesqued in the bestselling Tour of Doctor Syntax (1812).
He dashed off hundreds of prints ridiculing the manners of all walks of
life - servants, scholars, soldiers, politicians, clergymen, tradesmen,
sportsmen, actors, dancers, flirts, and fops. A jocose spectre leads
mortals of all ranks and conditions off to a fitting end in Rowlandson's
masterpiece The English Dance of Death, issued in parts
between 1814 and 1816 with verses by William Combe, who also wrote the
text for the Tour of Doctor Syntax. Altogether, the
Princeton University Library has more than nine hundred volumes with
Rowlandson illustrations and about two thousand prints, most of which
are the gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895. For more information
about Princeton's holdings, one can consult E. D. H. Johnson, "Special
Collections at Princeton. V. The Works of Thomas Rowlandson,"
Princeton University Library Chronicle 2 (1940): 7-20.
Humor is a fragile commodity because much of it is based on things of
the moment. The staying power of Rowlandson, or any cartoonist, is
predicated on the ability to build humorous conceptions on universal
ideas. Rowlandson's comic art is still fresh and funny in our era
because the pokes fun at human nature, which barely changes one century
to the next.