About this artwork

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.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
    John KayScottish (1742 - 1826)
  • title:
    John Kay, 1742 - 1826. Caricaturist (Self-portrait)
  • date created:
    About 1786
  • materials:
    Oil on canvas
  • measurements:
    26.00 x 20.60 cm; Framed: 36.00 x 39.00 x 5.00 cm
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Purchased 1918
  • accession number:
    PG 892
  • gallery:
  • depicted:
  • subject:
  • photographer:
    Antonia Reeve
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John Kay

John Kay