New Covent Garden Theatre
Coloured aquatintpublished 1 January 1810
About the work
This view of the ‘Covent Garden Theatre’ depicts the second theatre on the site of the present day Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (the third on the site). This earliest theatre was established in 1732 by theatre manager John Rich, who shared dramatic rights for London performances with the only other London theatre: Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The first Covent Garden building was designed by architect Edward Shepherd but partially reconstructed by Henry Holland in 1792. However, on 20 September that year the building was destroyed by fire. This subsequent theatre, designed by architect Robert Smirke, replaced the building a year later.
This print is the result of a collaboration between the English artist Thomas Rowlandson and French architectural draughtsman Augustus Charles Pugin. Pugin drew the architectural scenes and Rowlandson added the characters. The resulting prints formed part of ‘The Microcosm of London’, published by Rudolph Ackermann. Issued in monthly installments from 1808 to 1810, ‘The Microcosm of London’ comprised three volumes, which together included over 100 illustrations.
About the artist
Auguste Charles Pugin, artist and architectural draughtsman, was born in Paris but settled in England during the French Revolution. After attending the Royal Academy Schools he worked for architect John Nash in Wales and later in London. Nash’s influence inspired Pugin’s interest in the Gothic style. He illustrated numerous topographical and architectural publications, including Ackermann’s ‘The Microcosm of London’ (1808-10). When, in 1818, he was commissioned to produce plates for ‘Specimens of Gothic Architecture’, he employed a team of architectural students to assist. His architectural designs include the interior of the Diorama in Regent’s Park (1823) in collaboration with James Morgan and the layout of Kensal Green Cemetery (1830).
John Bluck was an aquatint engraver, mainly of topographical views, but also of marine and sporting subjects after his contemporaries. He produced plates for numerous publications.
Thomas Rowlandson, caricaturist and draughtsman, attended the Royal Academy Schools. After his studies he worked in watercolours and developed a style influenced by Gainsborough and French Rococo art. From 1784 he received commissions for publications and later gained the patronage of the Prince of Wales. He also produced satirical images, illustrating well-known scandals and characters. Despite gaining a substantial inheritance in 1789, by 1793 he was in poverty. However, his financial worries eased when he received commissions from Ackermann, which led to his involvement with A. C. Pugin in ‘The Microcosm of London’. Rowlandson later produced sketches for the adventures of ‘Dr Syntax’ (1812-21), also published by Ackermann.