John Kay, 1742 - 1826. Caricaturist (Self-portrait)
John Kay began his career as a barber-surgeon before turning his hand to producing etched caricatures of his contemporaries. This self-taught artist's prolific output created an unmatched record of the citizens of Scotland's capital. Kay's simple, often humorous, portrayals provide a satirical commentary on Edinburgh society for which he was sometimes threatened with legal action. They offer a telling comparison to the grander images painted by established portrait painters. Kay sold his prints and miniature paintings from a shop at 10 Parliament Close. Within twelve years of his death his caricatures were published in a two-volume book, 'A series of original portraits and caricature etchings by the late John Kay', with a second edition following four years later.
Many of the prints we are selling have pencilled identifcations of the people in the caricature – but the pencillings are often illegible.
If you would like to see the text of Kay's book to identify the characters below, please click here