England in the mid to late Eighteenth century is known to many of us through the many cartoons of the age, from Hogarth with his satires on drinking and marriage, to the politics of Cruickshank and Rowlandson, but I have just discovered another and am amazed I have never heard of him before. His name is Henry William Bunbury, and my ignorance is more striking as his portrait owned by the National Portrait Gallery was done by one of my favourite artists, Thomas Lawrence.
This is from a book which accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the HolburneMuseum some years ago, ‘Pickpocketing the Rich’::
The younger son of a baronet, H.W. Bunbury was among he most successful caricaturists of his time, the golden age of caricature. He kept several engravers supplied with homorous sketches, as well as sentimental scenes for the decorative print market. His name was so well known that it guaranteed good sales. Horace Walpole called him ‘the second Hogarth’, although his satire was gentle and good-humoured.
In 1787, Bunbury was appointed Groom of the Bedchamber to the Duke of York. The Queen’s second Keeper of the Robes, playwright Fanny Burney, found him ‘entertaining and gay, full of talk, sociable…’ but indiscreet, and she was concerned that ‘A man with such a turn, and with talents so inimitable in displaying it, was a rather dangerous character to be brought within a Court’.
Some of his pieces were long and drawn out, such as one of the most celebrated of all caricatures, A Long Minuet as Danced at Bath which owes as much to the genre of graphic novel as to caricature.