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November

November's featured work is James Gillray's print The Friend of the People and His Petty-New-Gatherer paying John Bull a Visit published on 28 May 1806. This satirical print currently features in the Government Art Collection exhibition An Eyeful of Wry held at Brynmor Jones Library gallery at the University of Hull as part of Hull 2017 UK City of Culture.

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A visit from the tax collectors causes exasperation for John Bull and his terrified family. Equipped with bags of money wrapped around their waists, the self-entitled 'friends of the people' demand the immediate payment of taxes. Emerging at a window, the man with rosy cheeks, a blue overcoat and a red shirt shows resistance and asks for mercy. An alarmed cat at a window above also protests against the two unwelcomed visitors. While they attempt to enter Bull's house in vain, nearby, three children quench their thirst by drinking from a water fountain labelled 'New Brewery for the Benefit of the Poor'.

This print explores, in an allegorical manner, the theme of the suffering of the British people represented by John Bull under the heavy taxation and debt imposed by the British Government during the war against Napoleon. Bull first appeared as a literary character in John Arbuthnot's five pamphlets published in 1712, which were collected and reprinted later as The History of John Bull. He also appears in satirical prints in an allegorical form, as a national character. He is often involved in arguments about the relationship between consumption and taxation and is depicted as an obese man with rosy cheeks, wearing a blue overcoat and a red shirt.

James Gillray was a leading English caricaturist and printmaker known for his inventive satirical prints directed at George III of England, prime ministers, and members of the government as well as Napoleon I. Born in Chelsea, Gillray was apprenticed to Harry Ashby (1744–1818), a lettering engraver whose workshop in Holborn produced, among others, trade cards, banknotes, scripts and maps. In 1778 he was admitted into The Royal Academy Schools where he studied under Francesco Bartolozzi. Among his contemporaries there was William Blake. Before turning to caricature in 1786, Gillray alternated between satires, illustrations, reproductive engravings and miniature portraits. His prints can be divided into two groups: political and social caricatures, and they were widely circulated in Britain and Europe. His prints were published by Mrs Hannah Humphrey with whom he lived for the rest of his life.

In 1807 Gillray's eyesight began to deteriorate and in the same year he had a breakdown. By 1810 he was considered insane. He attempted suicide the following year, eventually dying at his home in St James's Street, Westminster, aged 58.






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