This view depicts an event held shortly after the birthday of King George III in 1799. Although the ceremony to Review the Volunteer Corps was held in honour of the King’s birthday on 4 June, it took place on 7 June 1799. The spectacle was reported in the ‘Oxford Journal’:
‘Yesterday the Volunteer Corps were reviewed in Hyde Park by his Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester in the presence of his Majesty. His Majesty, attended by the Prince of Wales, was on the ground at nine in the morning, the different corps having previously assembled and taken their respective positions in line… On the eight cannon being fired, three cheers were given, and the Music played, “God Save the King.”’
This aquatint was made by Richard Earlom after a drawing by Robert Smirke. It was published by John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall, in 1801. Artist Robert Smirke held democratic sympathies and anti-monarchist sentiments. By 1795 Smirke's views reached the attention of the king himself, who refused to sanction his election as Keeper of the Royal Academy in 1804. ‘George III Reviewing the Volunteer Corps’ may have been painted in part to improve Smirke’s relations with the King.
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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