For my latest ms, I’ve been researching artists of the Regency era–specifically cartoonists like Gillray, Cruikshank, and Rowlandson. An artist in this time had to be a jack of all trades. Not only did they do work on commission, such as portraits and book illustrations, they did other things, such as teaching wealthy nobles how to paint. It was a career that could be lucrative, but an artist had to hustle in order to keep afloat. (It also didn’t help that a lot of them like to gamble or drink heavily.)
Interestingly, a big market for an artist at this time was mementos. Without photographs, bumper stickers, or the “I’ve been on the Grand Tour and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” shirt, tourists of the Regency needed a way to recall the things they’d seen on their journeys. So artists made engravings of popular landmarks in major cities and people would then buy the prints to hang in their homes.
**WARNING! NSFW after the jump!!**
It’s probably not shocking to anyone to learn that erotic art was a large market as well. All the cool kids– and by “cool kids” I mean wealthy, aristocratic men–were expected to have a good, healthy selection of dirty pictures in their libraries. Sort of the precursor to having Playboys and Hustlers hidden under the bed.
Here is a sample of one of the tamer engravings I found, courtesy of Rowlandson:
There are more images here, if you’re so inclined. (Love on a Bicycle! How can you resist?)
One of the publishers of erotic art and literature in the day was a woman (yes, you read that right) named Mary Wilson. She published material for both women and men. Hooray for equal opportunity smut!
Wilson is interesting for another reason. In 1824, she wrote an essay entitled Adultury on the Part of Married Women, and Fornication on the Part of Old Maids and Widows. Her idea was to open a brothel where ladies, wearing masks of course, could watch through darkened windows as the available men played cards, wrestled, or bathed. A lady only need ring a bell to have the man of her choosing then brought up to her boudoir.
A visionary, or a crackpot?