Satire exhibition coming to Pontefract Museum

23/04/2019, PR-9039

James Gillray (1756-1815), The French Invasion
James Gillray (1756-1815), The French Invasion

​An exhibition exploring eighteenth century satire will open at Pontefract Museum on Saturday 11 May, featuring stunning prints on loan from The British Museum.

To launch the exhibition there will also be an 'in conversation' event with 'Have I Got News For You' star Ian Hislop and curator Tom Hockenhull on Saturday 11 May. 

'The golden age of satire? Late-Georgian satirical prints' is a British Museum Spotlight Loan and will explore how a small group of printmakers – Gillray, Cruikshank, Rowlandson and Newton – mercilessly taunted the worst excesses of the British monarchy between 1790 and 1820.

The exhibition highlights nine late Georgian prints, most of which cruelly mock King George III and his corrupt sons. This time is often referred to as the 'golden age of satire' and these prints are by the most talented, prolific and vicious satirists from that time.

Pontefract features in one of the prints and was no stranger to Georgian satire. The exhibition includes a copy of 'The Dunniad', a mid-Georgian book which collected satirical commentary on Pontefract politics. Other objects from Wakefield Museums' collections include 'Spitting Image' squeaky dog toys of 1980s politicians and an issue of 'Private Eye' from Pontefract's Poulson Affair which forced the resignation of the Home Secretary.

Georgian satire was sometimes crude as well as cruel and was greeted with uproar and apprehension by the establishment.

Ian Hislop is no stranger to satire, having carved a successful career as editor of 'Private Eye' magazine, panellist on 'Have I Got News For You' and as curator of the recent British Museum exhibition 'I Object: Ian Hislop's search for dissent'. In conversation with Tom Hockenhull, his British Museum co-curator, Ian discusses some of his favourite objects from the exhibition at the launch event.

Tom Hockenhull, curator of this Spotlight Loan, said: "These prints are clever, dangerously subversive and viciously funny. I'm delighted that they will be shared with a wider audience through this partnership exhibition. They provide a rich and complex source of information about the period, and I look forward to seeing how each venue approaches the material."

With the support of the Dorset Foundation, the exhibition will travel to three UK venues from May 2019 until January 2020; Pontefract Museum, West Yorkshire, Newstead Abbey, Nottinghamshire and Beacon Museum, Whitehaven.

The exhibition runs from 11 May until 20 July at Pontefract Museum and entry is free, find out more at

'In conversation with Ian Hislop and Tom Hockenhull: The golden age of satire? Late-Georgian satirical prints' will take place on Saturday 11 May in the Nelson Room at Pontefract Town Hall between 4.30pm-6.30pm. Tickets are £5, available via Eventbrite (, and will include a private view of the exhibition.


Picture caption: James Gillray (1756-1815), The French Invasion; John Bull, bombarding the Bum-boats, 1793, hand-coloured etching © The Trustees of the British Museum.

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