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John Kay

(1742-1826), Miniature painter and caricaturist

Sitter in 4 portraits
Artist associated with 287 portraits
The son of a mason, Kay was apprenticed at the age of thirteen to George Heriot, a barber in Dalkeith. Six years later, he moved to Edinburgh where he continued to work as a barber. In his spare time, he began to produce highly original portrait sketches and caricatures of Edinburgh characters, despite having received no formal training. Kay attracted the patronage of William Nisbet of Dirleton, who settled an annuity upon him, and in 1785 he was finally able to give up his trade for art. From 1784 to 1822, he etched nearly nine hundred plates portraying many notable Scotsmen of the day. Many of his satirical prints were bought by his subjects themselves with the express purpose of destroying them.

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John Kay, by John Kay - NPG D4970

John Kay

by John Kay
etching and aquatint, 1786
NPG D4970

John Kay, by John Kay - NPG D8953

John Kay

by John Kay
etching and aquatint, 1786
NPG D8953

John Kay, by John Kay - NPG D8954

John Kay

by John Kay
etching and aquatint, 1786
NPG D8954


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