Battle of the Pyrenees, 28 July 1813
Colour aquatintpublished 4 June 1836
About the work
The chaos of battle is aptly represented in this scene showing the Battle of the Pyrenees. The main action is set at the foot of the mountain range, but fighting continues on the distant peaks.
Two similar aquatint prints showing the Battle of the Pyrenees and also made after designs by William Heath were published some 17 years before this work, in 1819, as part of ‘The Wars of Wellington, a narrative poem; in fifteen cantos’. Written by William Combe (1742-1823), the publication included 30 hand-coloured aquatint plates by Joseph Constantine Stadler, each made after an original drawing by William Heath. Combe’s poem describes the scene at the close of the battle:
‘When dubious ev’ning veil’d the lawn,
The baffled foes had all withdrawn,
And left their dying and their dead,
O’er all the scene of slaughter spread,
While through the anxious hours of night,
They fortify the mountains height.’
About the artist
Draughtsman and printmaker William Heath was born in Northumbria. Little is known of his early life but he may have been raised in Spain and have served in the British army. Heath was 14 when his first satirical cartoons were published and he continued to etch caricatures and illustrate books, including his own ‘Life of a Soldier’ (1823). In 1825-26 he was in Edinburgh, writing and illustrating for the journal ‘Glasgow Looking Glass’. He later returned to London to illustrate a similar journal, ‘Looking Glass’. From 1827-29 he identified his work with a tiny drawing of stage character ‘Paul Pry’, abandoning the motif when it was copied by other artists. From 1830 he concentrated on topographical illustration. He died in Hampstead, aged 45.