During the eighteenth century Europe was a center for the arts, and countries such as Italy, France, and the Netherlands had renowned schools of art that made those countries and their artists world famous. England had fewer famous artists, although architects Christopher Wren and Inigo Jones gained fame for their work. Another man who succeeded as an English artist, although not now so famous, was John Boydell. He was born in Dorrington, Shropshire, England, in 1719 and began working as an engraver in the 1740s, publishing views of England and Wales. In 1786 he began to commission major artists to produce oil paintings to illustrate William Shakespeare's plays. In order to exhibit these works, Boydell opened the Shakespeare Gallery on Pall Mall, a famous street in London in 1789. Boydell became the lord mayor of London in 1790, but his dream of a great national school of history painting in which he could house his collection never came true. In 1793 his nephew Josiah Boydell (1752–1815) became his business partner. John Boydell died in 1804 in London and his collection was sold by lottery in 1805.
This engraving entitled “His most gracious majesty King George the Third” was published as a part of Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery in 1804. An engraving is a picture that is first carved on a wooden or metal plate and then printed, usually on paper; many copies can be made from a single carved plate. The artist that created this engraving was Benjamin Smith (1754–1833), a London engraver whom Boydell often commissioned to make engravings. Smith based this work on an original painting by Sir William Beechey (1753–1839). Since 1793 Beechey had been Queen Charolotte's official portraitist. He painted this portrait of George III about 1800. The portrait portrays the king at full length and dressed in his military uniform.
1. What is an engraving?
2. What was George III's role in the American Revolution?
3. What is George III wearing in this picture? Why might the artist have chosen that style of dress instead of another?
1. Comparing this portrait of George III to a similar one of George Washington, what parallels are there between the two? What does does their treatment in portraiture say about the two men? Look at George III's posture and note which direction he is looking. Why are these men dressed the way they are?
Lloyd, Alan. The King Who Lost America: A Portrait of the Life and Times of George III. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971.