A Fencing Match
This satirical print is situated in the interior of a fencing-room where two elderly gentlemen engage in combat. These two contrasting figures, one portly and one thin, have not dressed in the customary masks or jackets but they do have projecting soles tied to their shoes. They are surrounded by a semi-circle of highly caricatured onlookers, a selection of fops and men in military dress, who all watch the action with amusement.
About the Artist
Thomas Rowlandson was born in London in 1756. When his father was in financial difficulties, an uncle (a Spitalfields silk weaver) and aunt took care of him as a boy and his younger sister. When Thomas was eight years old his then widowed aunt moved to Soho and he was sent to Dr Barwis’s School. He was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in 1775, in which year two of his ‘serious’ pictures were accepted at the annual exhibition. He received a silver medal for his work at the Schools in 1777. Subsequently he paid visits to France and possibly Italy although the circumstances of these are not clear. In 1784 he exhibited his compositions titled Vauxhall Gardens and The Serpentine River at the Academy, both works showing how much he had achieved by the age of twenty-eight. On the death of his aunt, Rowlandson soon wasted half a fortune which she had left him in what we now look upon as a happily reckless life of gambling and high living among like-minded friends, interspersed with times of concentrated work for publishers to make ends meet. Between 1798 and 1822, Rudolph Ackermann employed him in illustrating many of the colour-plate books he was then publishing. Rowlandson was also working for a hack publisher, Thomas Tegg of Cheapside, from 1807. Little is known of Rowlandson’s life after 1824. He became ill at the age of sixty-eight, probably after a stroke, and died in London two years later on 22 April 1827.