This hand-coloured etching by Robert Smirke was made shortly after the birthday of King George III in 1799. In the expansive view of Hyde Park, the serried ranks of the volunteer troops are assembled in vast numbers for the grand state occasion. In the foreground is a line of almost identical prancing horses, while to the left and right of the troops, a large number of people, trees and buildings are crowded into this intricately detailed work. The view also includes Park Lane on the right, Oxford Street and Bayswater Road beyond the park and Edgware Road in the distance.
This image includes only the small-scale outlines of figures, horses, trees and buildings. The distant hills are also indicated as etched outlines. However, there is no printed indication of shading or texture in the large expanse of grass, the sky or elsewhere in the composition. The textures and shading have instead been added in watercolour. This is in contrast to the completed aquatint print, which was etched by both Robert Smirke and Richard Earlom and published by John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall, in 1801. Therefore this may be an earlier version of the image, made in preparation for the aquatint print.
Robert Smirke was born in Wigton, Carlisle. He was brought to London by his father in 1766 and apprenticed to a coach painter named Bromley. He entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1772 and exhibited at the Academy from 1786 to 1800, in 1805 and in 1815. He became an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1791 and a full Royal Academician two years later. Smirke specialised in unusually small scale scenes from literary or theatrical subjects, and his works are often humorous. His radical and revolutionary opinions led George III to bar his appointment as Keeper of the Royal Academy in 1804. The artist died at the age of 92 at his home in Osnaburgh Terrace, near Regent's Park, London.
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