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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Erotic Art of Thomas Rowlandson by Jenna Jaxon

The turn of the 19th century was quite a bit wilder and an extremely bawdy period as we approach the Regency period. The 18th century had been time of great eroticism and overt sexuality. The book Fanny Hill had been published in 1732, one of the leading erotic novels of the day. Jack Harris (pen name of Samuel Derrick) published Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies (prostitutes) that was a best seller for years. And Thomas Rowlandson, a popular engraver and caricaturist in Georgian London, created a series of highly erotic engravings at the end of the century, reportedly for the Prince Regent. Rowlandson, an orphan raised by his aunt, studied art in Paris and began to exhibit his work in London in the mid-1770s. He etched and
printed several series his works, such as Dr. Syntax's Tour and The Microcosm of London for which he gained much fame. He illustrated prominent authors' works of the period such as Smollett, Goldsmith, Sterne, and Swift. He worked primarily in pen and ink, with a watercolor wash, the delicate nature of his work contrasting sharply with the coarseness of his subjects.
One of his most popular series depicted men and women in the most licentious poses imaginable. These were the ones done for the prince and that now are on display in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. (These three prints are the only ones not too bawdy to print!) But I chose some that I think will give you a feel for Rowlandson's works. These prints were so popular the original engraved plates were worn completely out with the printing of them.

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