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March of Intellect

Date: 1829
Dimensions:
Overall: 555 x 655 x 23 mm
Medium: Laid paper, printing ink, watercolour paints
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Art
Object Name: Engraving
Object No: 00040518

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    Description
    This rare scene of aeronautical fantasy depicts the transportation of convicts to New South Wales via an animal-shaped airship and immigrants via a vacuum tube or suspension bridge. The caricature was a satirical look at how the 19th century's boom in mechanical inventions and education for the working class could be used to provide faster transport to the colonies. Printed at the top of the cartoon is the text, 'Lord how this world improves as we grow older'.

    SignificanceThis is an exceptionally scarce example of a separately-issued immigration and transportation cartoon. It was created by William Heath, one the last great English caricaturists in the tradition of Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray.

    HistoryThe phrase MARCH OF INTELLECT was first coined by Robert Southey (1774-1843) an English poet and prose writer in his work 'Sir Thomas Moore; or, 'Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society’. Southey used the term to describe the increasing English obsession in the early 19th century for knowledge, technology, scientific experiment and education and the possibility of social and cultural transformation through accessible and affordable 'knowledge texts' . (http://www.giga-usa.com/gigaweb1/quotes2/qutopintellectx001.htm)

    No doubt inspired by Southey's work, in 1829 William Heath (1795-1840), a draughtsman, etcher and lithographer of caricatures and military subjects produced a series of hand coloured lithographs portraying THE MARCH OF INTELLECT in England and Europe, which attempted to foresee and predict the benefits of scientific developments.

    Heath, who also signed his works Paul Pry, a popular stage character of the day, was best known for his magazines and finely drawn and very original engravings which included caricatures, editorial or political cartoons and commentary on contemporary life. Editorial or political cartoons such as Heath's can be very diverse, but there is a certain established style among most of them. Most editorial cartoons use visual metaphors and caricatures to explain complicated political situations, and thus sum up a current event with a humorous or emotional picture. Although their style, technique or viewpoints may differ, editorial cartoonists draw attention to important social and political issues.
    (Source: Anthony Wood Gallery, London, http://www.anthonywoodd.com/displaybio.php?artid=78, August 2006)

    Drawing on themes of archetype and folklore, caricatures employed easily recognisable setups that let the viewers in on the joke. British caricature artists were merciless, lampooning both general types and specific personalities. By manipulating recognisable faces and forms into comical distortions, artists employed by England's publishing houses helped the public poke fun at figures from every level of society. Imagination was the key to successful caricatures, and different artists imagined different exaggerations for their subjects.

    Artists like Henry Rowlandson infused ordinary situations with ridiculous figures, like Dr Syntax, in order to criticise popular ideas and trends. Famed satirist James Gillray, in contrast, often inserted well-known personalities into fanciful scenarios, making pointed observations about character flaws or public foibles such an example is the Museum's engraving by Gillray of Sir Joseph Banks as THE SOUTH PACIFIC BUTTERFLY. Exaggerating features and costumes, they created humorous prints that sold primarily to the educated well-to-do. Though some English publishers exported their wares, caricatures by James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson, George Woodward, James Sayers, Isaac Cruikshank and William Heath were most popular at home, where viewers could easily identify and laugh at the subjects. For those who could not afford the two-shilling price tag on a colour print, printsellers often created colourful window displays, allowing every passer-by to share the joke. Cheaper, non-coloured lithographs were also available through itinerant street peddlers.

    Heath founded three early caricature / satirical magazines 'The Glasgow Looking Glass’, 'The Northern Looking Glass' and the 'Looking Glass'. These three magazines are early examples of topical graphic journalism, a genre that became increasingly popular throughout the nineteenth century. In these magazines, William Heath took an irreverent view of the leading concerns and news of the time. As well as satirising political issues, he pokes fun at all levels of society, including the prevailing fashions and popular pursuits of the day. (Source: University of Glasgow, Special Collection, http://special.lib.gla.ac.uk/exhibns/month/june2005.html)

    Convict transportation, immigration and the Australian colonies were the butt of many English jokes and had become popular subject material for artists, such as Heath, who supplied the London print sellers with ever-changing and newsworthy etchings and caricatures on these subjects including 'A Startling Interrogation' (McLean, London, 1829); 'The Swan River Settlement' (McLean, London, 1831); and 'The March of Intellect' (McLean, London, 1829)

    William Heath (1795-1840) was one of the last of the great English caricaturists, following in the tradition of Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray. Separately-issued transportation and immigration cartoons are exceptionally scarce, and this is a particularly charming and amusing example in fine condition. It is not recorded by Jonathan King in The Other Side of the Coin: a Cartoon History of Australia, the standard work on the subject. (www.hordernhouse.com, August, 2006)




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    Publisher: Thomas McLean

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