Patsy Payne meets a relative of the ‘father of the political cartoon’ James Gillray, who brought a family treasure to share with members at our June meeting
A visitor to our monthly meeting was shocked and delighted to find an original James Gillray print he’d picked up for £1 is today worth thousands.
Gordon Laidlaw had brought the family heirloom to the meeting after friends told him there was to be an illustrated talk by Ian Keable, a leading expert on the early satirical cartoonist whose uncle was Mr Laidlaw’s great, great grandfather
Proudly displaying his original Gillray print of the famous “Plumb-Pudding”, featuring Pitt the Younger and Napoleon Bonaparte dividing up the globe, Mr Laidlaw explained: “I knew it was worth a lot of money – I thought about £1,000 by now – but to discover it was fetching around £14,000 means I’ll now have to get it insured!
“I’ve bought others over the years and given them away. I don’t think I’ll let them know how much they could be worth,” he added.
“It was a wonderful talk, very informative, and Ian and I had a jolly good chat.
“Of course, Gillray was a good artist and a great draughtsman at a time that saw the start of democracy. There were no cameras in those days to record events and so his illustrations give us a tremendous record of interiors at that time and of costume.”
Speaker Ian Keable kept the packed meeting intrigued with the historical facts and illustrations of Gillray’s incredibly detailed hard-hitting prints of 18th-century politicians and members of the Royal Family.
Although his reputation plummeted during the Victorian climate of moral righteousness, Gillray is now accepted as the first, and the greatest, political caricaturist. His intricate etchings and uncompromising and fearless depictions of people in high places made his contemporary, William Hogarth, seem tame by comparison.
It’s just 200 years since Gillray died – and just 50 years since his lucky relative Mr Laidlaw picked up the famous Plumb-Pudding original print for £1 in London’s Portobello Road.