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Samuel Johnson ('Old wisdom blinking at the stars')

15 of 50 portraits of Samuel Johnson

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Samuel Johnson ('Old wisdom blinking at the stars')

by James Gillray, published by W. Rennie
hand-coloured etching, published 10 March 1782
8 5/8 in. x 7 1/2 in. (219 mm x 189 mm) plate size; 9 1/2 in. x 7 5/8 in. (242 mm x 194 mm) paper size
Purchased, 1947
Reference Collection
NPG D12300

Sitterback to top

  • Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), Poet, critic and lexicographer. Sitter associated with 50 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • James Gillray (1756-1815), Caricaturist. Artist or producer associated with 887 portraits, Sitter in 7 portraits.
  • W. Rennie (active 1782), Publisher. Artist or producer associated with 1 portrait.

Events of 1782back to top

Current affairs

Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford resigns as Prime Minister over recent setbacks in America and is succeeded by Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham who takes office for the second time. Rockingham dies on 1 July and is succeeded by William Petty, 2nd Earl of Shelburne.
Repeal of Poynings Law and Declaratory Act of 1720 gives virtual legislative autonomy to Ireland.

Art and science

After a poor reception in the mid 1770s, actress Sarah Siddons makes a triumphant return to the Drury Lane Theatre, London in the title role of Isabella, or, The Fatal Marriage. She will become the century's best known tragic actress.
Clergyman and artist William Gilpin publishes Observations on the River Wye; a central text in the formulation of the concept of the picturesque.

International

American War of Independence: Siege of Gibraltar reaches a climax in the Grand Assault but French and Spanish forces are unsuccessful. Britain loses Minorca prompting the Prime Minister, Lord Rockingham, to open peace talks with the Americans. Thomas Grenville is sent to Paris to negotiate with Benjamin Franklin.
Paper manufacturer Joseph Montgolfier sends a hot-air balloon 1000 meters into the air, in front of a crowd in the Ardèche in France.

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