Thinking in Words and Images: 
James Gillray’s Preparatory Drawings

Auteur / Author: 
Ersy CONTOGOURIS (Université de Montréal, Canada)
Vendredi 26 Août 2011 - 14:00


This paper will focus on some of James Gillray’s preliminary drawings to his caricatures in order to highlight a unique aspect of the close relationship between word and image in his work. These drawings shed light on the mechanisms whereby Gillray developed his designs and show how he used words and images concomitantly in this process. Gillray had first trained in the art of lettering and was always scrupulously careful with the writing in his prints. David Bindman is among a number of scholars who have argued that the words in Gillray’s caricatures — the ones that spell out the captions as well as the ones that appear within the image frames — should be seen as an integral part of the design. Gillray’s preparatory drawings evince a rich layering of word and image in the very process of thinking the design. In some instances, the melding between word and image is so complete that it is difficult to discern whether a mark on the page is that of a word or an image. The analysis of these fascinating drawings, a body of work that has not been much examined, will further our understanding of the inextricable relationship between word and image in Gillray’s caricatures: they render manifest how he drew on both visual and verbal languages to perfect his work and testify to the richness of the language in which he drew.