Painter, illustrator and long time friend of John Flaxman and William Blake, whom he met at the Royal Academy Schools, Stothard had a considerable contemporary reputation as a history painter, but is now considered as one of the most prolific book illustrators of his day. Initially apprenticed as a pattern designer to a Huguenot silk weaver, Stothard went on to do design work for various media including Wedgwood's jasperware, silverware for several silversmithing companies, clay modeling, etchings and other applied and decorative arts. It was, however, book illustration which produced a major part of his income and upon which his reputation rests today. He had a long association with the Royal Academy, both in a teaching and administrative role: elected to the Academy in 1794, he was later made deputy librarian and then librarian in 1812.

The manipulative and unethical business practices of publisher Robert Cromek caused conflict between Blake and Stothard revolving around the design, painting and etching based on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales of 'The Pilgrimage to Canterbury' completed in 1817. Blake had earlier experienced Cromek's double-dealing around the designs and commission for the engraving of plates for Blair's The Grave. It was highly suspicious that after Cromek had seen Blake's sketches for a fresco picture of 'Pilgrimage to Canterbury' he should commission Stothard to paint a picture of the same subject. Both Blake's and Stothard's pictures are the same format and the prints are the same size.

Item No. 46
Thomas Stothard

c. 1802

The watercolour is from the series Seven Ages of Man.

Item No. 49
Designed by Thomas Stothard engraved by William Blake

The Novelist Magazine. Vol. IX.
London: printed for Harrison and Co., 1782

The Stothard / Blake plates illustrate Sentimental Journey,
Gulliver's Travels
and David Simple.