Jun 18, 2008

Richard II

Richard II


John Hamilton Mortimer

(British, 1740–1779)

Etching in brown ink

Support: Medium-weight laid paper with watermark in the middle of the sheet

Sheet: 57.3 x 40.8 cm (22 9/16 x 16 1/16 in.); Image: 34.1 x 28 cm (13 7/16 x 11 in.); Platemark: 39.9 x 32.4 cm (15 11/16 x 12 3/4 in.)

Gift of various donors to the department of Prints and Drawings 2002.58

Edition: proof impression before borderline was added for the first edition



John Hamilton Mortimer supported the prevailing academic doctrine which located history painting at the top of the hierarchy of subject matter. Unlike many of his contemporaries, however, he turned to the great subjects of English literature for themes. From 1775 to 1776, Mortimer produced etchings of twelve Shakespearean characters, including King Lear, Ophelia, and Caliban. In this dramatic composition, the skeletal figure of death looms over the tense King Richard II. This rare signed proof is a marvelous example of Mortimer's Romantic sensibility.

By the time he was twenty-three years old, Mortimer had won numerous prizes for his drawings and paintings and was considered one of the rising stars of English art. In 1774, he became president of the Society of Artists of Great Britain, to whose annual exhibitions he was a regular contributor. The artist's promising career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of thirty-nine.

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