A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


Art gallery

Cara/Andrea here,
I love research. Learning about all the little everyday details that help create a scene from the Regency world—a ball, a prize fight, an art exhibition at the Royal Academy, a coaching stop at a country inn, a rural barnyard—is fascinating. I have shelves of books on esoteric subjects from the era in my writing room, and I’m constantly reading to get a picture of how things looked and felt. (above is a scene from an art exhibit—notice how the pictures are crowded on the wall and go nearly to the ceiling.)

But there is an old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words . . . and I couldn’t agree more! Written descriptions are all very well, but there’s something very wonderful about studying drawings and paintings from the time, where one can actually SEE what the clothes and the scenes look like. Some of my favorite resources are the watercolor sketches of Thomas Rowlandson, who had a very sharp—and sometimes cynical—eye. Best known for his satirical cartoons, he was also a very observant artist, who made numerous drawings and paintings of everyday life in the late Georgian and Regency era.

In keeping with the phrase above, I’m going to keep my commentary short and simply share a selection of his art that I find particularly fascinating. (all art courtesy of the Yale British Art Center)

Bath Ball
A ball in Bath (notice the musicians and the chairs with the watchful chaperones)

Ball
A ball at Scarborough (Notice the gallery for the musicians and the architecture of the room)

Bath Concert
A concert in Bath (Notice the arrangement of the chairs and the stage for the singer.)

Covent Garden Market
Covent Garden Market (Notice all the details of clothing and the stalls)

Barnyard
A country barnyard (Notice the sprawling barns and sheds)

Potter
A country potter taking his wares to market. (Notice the cart and harness), and the house)

Gardening
Gardening (Notice the dogs and the bare feet)

Stage coach
Loading a stage coach. (Notice the outside passengers and the design of the coach and driver's box.)

Traveling coach
Traveling through the countryside (Notice the details of the whole scene, like how all the horses have docked tails)

Prize Fight
A prize fight (Notice the whole set-up)

Horse auction
Horse sale in Hopkins's Repository, Barbican (Notice the auctioneer and the crowd)

Boat raceThe Annual Sculling Race for Doggett's Coat and Badge (Notice the shapes of the rowing boats and the spectator vessels)

So, I hope you enjoyed this little portrait portfolio of Regency life by an artist of the time. Did you see anything that surprised you? Delighted you? I was struck by how many sketches show dogs as pets. Seeing what a "mill" actually looked like was also wonderful—! hadn't envisioned the carriages crowded so close to the ring. And having read about the race for Dogget's Coat and Badge, I just loved seeing an eyewitness image of what the boats and racers looked like, as well as getting a great feel for the ambiance—one can just sense the ruacous excitement of the spectators. What about you? Please share your impressions!

 

 

 

 

100 thoughts on “A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words”

  1. Hi Cara/Andrea. I always like looking at Rowlandsons work. The only thing that always strikes me is how clean the ground/floor is. It is as if he never looks at his feet. I also wonder if he crowds his work just to fit everything in and that there was really more space. Never mind, it really gives the observer an idea of that life was like at that time, especially the clothes and mannerisms of the people.

    Reply
  2. Hi Cara/Andrea. I always like looking at Rowlandsons work. The only thing that always strikes me is how clean the ground/floor is. It is as if he never looks at his feet. I also wonder if he crowds his work just to fit everything in and that there was really more space. Never mind, it really gives the observer an idea of that life was like at that time, especially the clothes and mannerisms of the people.

    Reply
  3. Hi Cara/Andrea. I always like looking at Rowlandsons work. The only thing that always strikes me is how clean the ground/floor is. It is as if he never looks at his feet. I also wonder if he crowds his work just to fit everything in and that there was really more space. Never mind, it really gives the observer an idea of that life was like at that time, especially the clothes and mannerisms of the people.

    Reply
  4. Hi Cara/Andrea. I always like looking at Rowlandsons work. The only thing that always strikes me is how clean the ground/floor is. It is as if he never looks at his feet. I also wonder if he crowds his work just to fit everything in and that there was really more space. Never mind, it really gives the observer an idea of that life was like at that time, especially the clothes and mannerisms of the people.

    Reply
  5. Hi Cara/Andrea. I always like looking at Rowlandsons work. The only thing that always strikes me is how clean the ground/floor is. It is as if he never looks at his feet. I also wonder if he crowds his work just to fit everything in and that there was really more space. Never mind, it really gives the observer an idea of that life was like at that time, especially the clothes and mannerisms of the people.

    Reply
  6. Thank you for this fascinating post. I love the background details in Rowlandson’s pictures as much as the foreground action. As you say, they are so informative about what life was actually like. However, I was surprised at how narrow the Assembly Rooms at Bath were compared to his pictures and the idea one gets of them from Jane Austen’s novels. Just as well dancing was so disciplined then!

    Reply
  7. Thank you for this fascinating post. I love the background details in Rowlandson’s pictures as much as the foreground action. As you say, they are so informative about what life was actually like. However, I was surprised at how narrow the Assembly Rooms at Bath were compared to his pictures and the idea one gets of them from Jane Austen’s novels. Just as well dancing was so disciplined then!

    Reply
  8. Thank you for this fascinating post. I love the background details in Rowlandson’s pictures as much as the foreground action. As you say, they are so informative about what life was actually like. However, I was surprised at how narrow the Assembly Rooms at Bath were compared to his pictures and the idea one gets of them from Jane Austen’s novels. Just as well dancing was so disciplined then!

    Reply
  9. Thank you for this fascinating post. I love the background details in Rowlandson’s pictures as much as the foreground action. As you say, they are so informative about what life was actually like. However, I was surprised at how narrow the Assembly Rooms at Bath were compared to his pictures and the idea one gets of them from Jane Austen’s novels. Just as well dancing was so disciplined then!

    Reply
  10. Thank you for this fascinating post. I love the background details in Rowlandson’s pictures as much as the foreground action. As you say, they are so informative about what life was actually like. However, I was surprised at how narrow the Assembly Rooms at Bath were compared to his pictures and the idea one gets of them from Jane Austen’s novels. Just as well dancing was so disciplined then!

    Reply
  11. Thank you for these images. Somewhere I have the two prints I picked up at Brighton showing social situations. These are delightful in the range of interaction, riding, boxing matches, and balls.
    As for the balls what I noticed was something that I’ve always wondered about. In many of the historicals, the descriptions include masses of flowers and how their scent before the crowds gathered. I looked for flowers or plants in the scenes, but didn’t see any.
    As for the country picture, what struck me was the rive behind and how it was crowded with boat. I suppose just as we don’t notice trains delivering goods, we don’t pay much attention to how rivers and canals carried trade.
    The Yale British Art collection must be a wonderful place for inspiration.

    Reply
  12. Thank you for these images. Somewhere I have the two prints I picked up at Brighton showing social situations. These are delightful in the range of interaction, riding, boxing matches, and balls.
    As for the balls what I noticed was something that I’ve always wondered about. In many of the historicals, the descriptions include masses of flowers and how their scent before the crowds gathered. I looked for flowers or plants in the scenes, but didn’t see any.
    As for the country picture, what struck me was the rive behind and how it was crowded with boat. I suppose just as we don’t notice trains delivering goods, we don’t pay much attention to how rivers and canals carried trade.
    The Yale British Art collection must be a wonderful place for inspiration.

    Reply
  13. Thank you for these images. Somewhere I have the two prints I picked up at Brighton showing social situations. These are delightful in the range of interaction, riding, boxing matches, and balls.
    As for the balls what I noticed was something that I’ve always wondered about. In many of the historicals, the descriptions include masses of flowers and how their scent before the crowds gathered. I looked for flowers or plants in the scenes, but didn’t see any.
    As for the country picture, what struck me was the rive behind and how it was crowded with boat. I suppose just as we don’t notice trains delivering goods, we don’t pay much attention to how rivers and canals carried trade.
    The Yale British Art collection must be a wonderful place for inspiration.

    Reply
  14. Thank you for these images. Somewhere I have the two prints I picked up at Brighton showing social situations. These are delightful in the range of interaction, riding, boxing matches, and balls.
    As for the balls what I noticed was something that I’ve always wondered about. In many of the historicals, the descriptions include masses of flowers and how their scent before the crowds gathered. I looked for flowers or plants in the scenes, but didn’t see any.
    As for the country picture, what struck me was the rive behind and how it was crowded with boat. I suppose just as we don’t notice trains delivering goods, we don’t pay much attention to how rivers and canals carried trade.
    The Yale British Art collection must be a wonderful place for inspiration.

    Reply
  15. Thank you for these images. Somewhere I have the two prints I picked up at Brighton showing social situations. These are delightful in the range of interaction, riding, boxing matches, and balls.
    As for the balls what I noticed was something that I’ve always wondered about. In many of the historicals, the descriptions include masses of flowers and how their scent before the crowds gathered. I looked for flowers or plants in the scenes, but didn’t see any.
    As for the country picture, what struck me was the rive behind and how it was crowded with boat. I suppose just as we don’t notice trains delivering goods, we don’t pay much attention to how rivers and canals carried trade.
    The Yale British Art collection must be a wonderful place for inspiration.

    Reply
  16. LOL at the “cleanliness,” Jenny. You are so right—I’m sure reality would show Covent Garden, etc, littered with many unpleasant substances. Rowlandson does edit. And of course, I’m sure he exaggerates scenes as he did have a satirical eye. But while we have to take the scenes with a grain of salt, they do show amazingly interesting details of dress and everyday items that are fascinating.

    Reply
  17. LOL at the “cleanliness,” Jenny. You are so right—I’m sure reality would show Covent Garden, etc, littered with many unpleasant substances. Rowlandson does edit. And of course, I’m sure he exaggerates scenes as he did have a satirical eye. But while we have to take the scenes with a grain of salt, they do show amazingly interesting details of dress and everyday items that are fascinating.

    Reply
  18. LOL at the “cleanliness,” Jenny. You are so right—I’m sure reality would show Covent Garden, etc, littered with many unpleasant substances. Rowlandson does edit. And of course, I’m sure he exaggerates scenes as he did have a satirical eye. But while we have to take the scenes with a grain of salt, they do show amazingly interesting details of dress and everyday items that are fascinating.

    Reply
  19. LOL at the “cleanliness,” Jenny. You are so right—I’m sure reality would show Covent Garden, etc, littered with many unpleasant substances. Rowlandson does edit. And of course, I’m sure he exaggerates scenes as he did have a satirical eye. But while we have to take the scenes with a grain of salt, they do show amazingly interesting details of dress and everyday items that are fascinating.

    Reply
  20. LOL at the “cleanliness,” Jenny. You are so right—I’m sure reality would show Covent Garden, etc, littered with many unpleasant substances. Rowlandson does edit. And of course, I’m sure he exaggerates scenes as he did have a satirical eye. But while we have to take the scenes with a grain of salt, they do show amazingly interesting details of dress and everyday items that are fascinating.

    Reply
  21. Shannon, what a great observation about the flowers! It’s true—we all tend to write that into our scenes. Maybe Heyer started it (LOL) Or maybe it tended to be mostly for the very wealthy in Mayfair. An interesting thing to think about.
    And yes, the masses of all sorts of boats on waterways is something I see in many prints. Boats really were an integral part of daily life.
    The British Art Center’s Print Room (open to the public!) is an amazing place.Well worth a visit! (Though it’s currently going to be closed off and on as the Center is going through a renovation.)

    Reply
  22. Shannon, what a great observation about the flowers! It’s true—we all tend to write that into our scenes. Maybe Heyer started it (LOL) Or maybe it tended to be mostly for the very wealthy in Mayfair. An interesting thing to think about.
    And yes, the masses of all sorts of boats on waterways is something I see in many prints. Boats really were an integral part of daily life.
    The British Art Center’s Print Room (open to the public!) is an amazing place.Well worth a visit! (Though it’s currently going to be closed off and on as the Center is going through a renovation.)

    Reply
  23. Shannon, what a great observation about the flowers! It’s true—we all tend to write that into our scenes. Maybe Heyer started it (LOL) Or maybe it tended to be mostly for the very wealthy in Mayfair. An interesting thing to think about.
    And yes, the masses of all sorts of boats on waterways is something I see in many prints. Boats really were an integral part of daily life.
    The British Art Center’s Print Room (open to the public!) is an amazing place.Well worth a visit! (Though it’s currently going to be closed off and on as the Center is going through a renovation.)

    Reply
  24. Shannon, what a great observation about the flowers! It’s true—we all tend to write that into our scenes. Maybe Heyer started it (LOL) Or maybe it tended to be mostly for the very wealthy in Mayfair. An interesting thing to think about.
    And yes, the masses of all sorts of boats on waterways is something I see in many prints. Boats really were an integral part of daily life.
    The British Art Center’s Print Room (open to the public!) is an amazing place.Well worth a visit! (Though it’s currently going to be closed off and on as the Center is going through a renovation.)

    Reply
  25. Shannon, what a great observation about the flowers! It’s true—we all tend to write that into our scenes. Maybe Heyer started it (LOL) Or maybe it tended to be mostly for the very wealthy in Mayfair. An interesting thing to think about.
    And yes, the masses of all sorts of boats on waterways is something I see in many prints. Boats really were an integral part of daily life.
    The British Art Center’s Print Room (open to the public!) is an amazing place.Well worth a visit! (Though it’s currently going to be closed off and on as the Center is going through a renovation.)

    Reply
  26. One thing I noticed was how Rowlandson seemed to often omit what “everyone knew” was there. For example, you mention noticing the harness in the drawing of the potter loading the cart — well, this is NOT the whole harness. The collar was not worn as “decor” — that’s how the cart was pulled, with tugs from the collar to the cart. But everyone knew that, so he didn’t bother drawing it in. 🙂

    Reply
  27. One thing I noticed was how Rowlandson seemed to often omit what “everyone knew” was there. For example, you mention noticing the harness in the drawing of the potter loading the cart — well, this is NOT the whole harness. The collar was not worn as “decor” — that’s how the cart was pulled, with tugs from the collar to the cart. But everyone knew that, so he didn’t bother drawing it in. 🙂

    Reply
  28. One thing I noticed was how Rowlandson seemed to often omit what “everyone knew” was there. For example, you mention noticing the harness in the drawing of the potter loading the cart — well, this is NOT the whole harness. The collar was not worn as “decor” — that’s how the cart was pulled, with tugs from the collar to the cart. But everyone knew that, so he didn’t bother drawing it in. 🙂

    Reply
  29. One thing I noticed was how Rowlandson seemed to often omit what “everyone knew” was there. For example, you mention noticing the harness in the drawing of the potter loading the cart — well, this is NOT the whole harness. The collar was not worn as “decor” — that’s how the cart was pulled, with tugs from the collar to the cart. But everyone knew that, so he didn’t bother drawing it in. 🙂

    Reply
  30. One thing I noticed was how Rowlandson seemed to often omit what “everyone knew” was there. For example, you mention noticing the harness in the drawing of the potter loading the cart — well, this is NOT the whole harness. The collar was not worn as “decor” — that’s how the cart was pulled, with tugs from the collar to the cart. But everyone knew that, so he didn’t bother drawing it in. 🙂

    Reply
  31. Two things that jumped out at me were the musicians’ arrangements (the minstrels gallery and the concert). I simply assumed a raised dais. The “bleachers” type of seating for the Bath ball was described in Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s the only place I have ever read of it. Seeing it illustrated was informative.

    Reply
  32. Two things that jumped out at me were the musicians’ arrangements (the minstrels gallery and the concert). I simply assumed a raised dais. The “bleachers” type of seating for the Bath ball was described in Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s the only place I have ever read of it. Seeing it illustrated was informative.

    Reply
  33. Two things that jumped out at me were the musicians’ arrangements (the minstrels gallery and the concert). I simply assumed a raised dais. The “bleachers” type of seating for the Bath ball was described in Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s the only place I have ever read of it. Seeing it illustrated was informative.

    Reply
  34. Two things that jumped out at me were the musicians’ arrangements (the minstrels gallery and the concert). I simply assumed a raised dais. The “bleachers” type of seating for the Bath ball was described in Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s the only place I have ever read of it. Seeing it illustrated was informative.

    Reply
  35. Two things that jumped out at me were the musicians’ arrangements (the minstrels gallery and the concert). I simply assumed a raised dais. The “bleachers” type of seating for the Bath ball was described in Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s the only place I have ever read of it. Seeing it illustrated was informative.

    Reply
  36. The drawings are wonderful. The artist certainly knows his subject and he has captured the atmosphere and the characters very well. Today some of the events would be spaced out more. We have developed “our personal space”.Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  37. The drawings are wonderful. The artist certainly knows his subject and he has captured the atmosphere and the characters very well. Today some of the events would be spaced out more. We have developed “our personal space”.Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  38. The drawings are wonderful. The artist certainly knows his subject and he has captured the atmosphere and the characters very well. Today some of the events would be spaced out more. We have developed “our personal space”.Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  39. The drawings are wonderful. The artist certainly knows his subject and he has captured the atmosphere and the characters very well. Today some of the events would be spaced out more. We have developed “our personal space”.Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  40. The drawings are wonderful. The artist certainly knows his subject and he has captured the atmosphere and the characters very well. Today some of the events would be spaced out more. We have developed “our personal space”.Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Reply
  41. What a lovely set of pictures like photos of an era but as you said with a little artists licence which isn’t always obvious to the modern eye like the horses harness.But one thing I noticed is how energetic the dancing obviously was.Definitely raise the knees when skipping definitely not a soft shoe shuffle !

    Reply
  42. What a lovely set of pictures like photos of an era but as you said with a little artists licence which isn’t always obvious to the modern eye like the horses harness.But one thing I noticed is how energetic the dancing obviously was.Definitely raise the knees when skipping definitely not a soft shoe shuffle !

    Reply
  43. What a lovely set of pictures like photos of an era but as you said with a little artists licence which isn’t always obvious to the modern eye like the horses harness.But one thing I noticed is how energetic the dancing obviously was.Definitely raise the knees when skipping definitely not a soft shoe shuffle !

    Reply
  44. What a lovely set of pictures like photos of an era but as you said with a little artists licence which isn’t always obvious to the modern eye like the horses harness.But one thing I noticed is how energetic the dancing obviously was.Definitely raise the knees when skipping definitely not a soft shoe shuffle !

    Reply
  45. What a lovely set of pictures like photos of an era but as you said with a little artists licence which isn’t always obvious to the modern eye like the horses harness.But one thing I noticed is how energetic the dancing obviously was.Definitely raise the knees when skipping definitely not a soft shoe shuffle !

    Reply
  46. Me, too, Mary Jo. It’s the mundane little things that I find so fascinating—the plumes on the hats, the shape of the rowing boats, the minstral’s gallery . . . I’m sure Rowlandson would be amused. But I think he would also understand, because he was such a keen observer of details and human nature.

    Reply
  47. Me, too, Mary Jo. It’s the mundane little things that I find so fascinating—the plumes on the hats, the shape of the rowing boats, the minstral’s gallery . . . I’m sure Rowlandson would be amused. But I think he would also understand, because he was such a keen observer of details and human nature.

    Reply
  48. Me, too, Mary Jo. It’s the mundane little things that I find so fascinating—the plumes on the hats, the shape of the rowing boats, the minstral’s gallery . . . I’m sure Rowlandson would be amused. But I think he would also understand, because he was such a keen observer of details and human nature.

    Reply
  49. Me, too, Mary Jo. It’s the mundane little things that I find so fascinating—the plumes on the hats, the shape of the rowing boats, the minstral’s gallery . . . I’m sure Rowlandson would be amused. But I think he would also understand, because he was such a keen observer of details and human nature.

    Reply
  50. Me, too, Mary Jo. It’s the mundane little things that I find so fascinating—the plumes on the hats, the shape of the rowing boats, the minstral’s gallery . . . I’m sure Rowlandson would be amused. But I think he would also understand, because he was such a keen observer of details and human nature.

    Reply

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