John Kay (caricaturist)
He was born near Dalkeith, where his father was a mason. At thirteen he was apprenticed to a barber, whom he served for six years. He then went to Edinburgh, where in 1771 he obtained the freedom of the city by joining the corporation of barber-surgeons. In 1784 he published his first caricature, of Laird Robertson. In 1785, induced by the favour which greeted certain attempts of his to etch in aquafortis, he took down his barber's pole and opened a small print shop in Parliament Close. There he continued to flourish, painting miniatures, and publishing at short intervals his sketches and caricatures of local celebrities and oddities, who abounded at that period in Edinburgh society.
Kay's portraits were collected by Hugh Paton and published under the title A series of original portraits and caricature etchings by the late John Kay, with biographical sketches and illustrative anecdotes (Edinburgh, 2 vols. 4to, 1838; 8vo ed., 4 vols., 1842; new 4to ed., with additional plates, 2 vols., 1877), forming a unique record of the social life and popular habits of Edinburgh at its most interesting epoch.
He died in Edinburgh and was buried at the north end of Greyfriars Kirkyard.
The British Museum has extensive holdings of his works, including two albums apparently assembled by Kay himself , both described in the Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum
Some persons caricatured by Kay
- Hugo Arnot
- Joseph Black
- Hugh Blair
- Claud Irvine Boswell
- John Brown
- James Burnett, Lord Monboddo
- Alexander Carlyle
- James Donaldson
- Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
- Robert Dundas, 2nd Viscount Melville
- Alexander Gerard
- Alexander Gordon, Lord Rockville
- John Grieve (Lord Provost)
- Francis Grose
- Henry Home, Lord Kames
- Sir Archibald Hope, 9th Baronet
- John Hope
- James Hutton
- Thomas Jefferson
- Vincenzo Lunardi
- Sam McDonald
- William Nairne, Lord Dunsinane
- William Robertson
- Sarah Siddons
- Adam Smith
- Peter Williamson (Indian Peter)
- Alexander ("Lang Sandy") Wood
- Bryant, Mark (1994). Dictionary of British Cartoonists and Caricaturists, 1730-198. London, England: Lund Humphries Publishers Ltd. p. 129. ISBN 978-0859679763.
- Chambers, Robert (1874–1875). Thomas Thomson, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Scotsmen. Glasgow: Blackie & Son. p. 415.
- Grant's Old and New Edinburgh
- "Kay's Caricatures". (1) 159.b.23/4 with 343 plates & (2) 298* a.8 with 205 plates
- George, M Dorothy (1870–1954). 'Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum. London: The British Museum.
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- The complete two volumes of John Kay's Originals with searchable text and images and Volume 2
- John Kay (Deutsche Biographie)
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