‘Astronomy’
‘Astronomy’
‘Astronomy’
‘Astronomy’
‘Astronomy’

After RICHARD HOUSTON (1721-1775)

‘Astronomy’

19th century England

Offered by Thomas Coulborn & Sons

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After an engraving entitled ‘Astronomy’ by Richard Houston in c.1750, depicting members of the nobility, well-dressed ladies and gentlemen, engaged in recreational astronomy using scientific instruments ‘en plein air’ in a classical setting, amongst picturesque ruins. The composition depicts astronomical instruments in use: an armillary sphere; a telescope; and a globe. Star gazing could prove sociable in the 18th Century, as astronomy offered a subject matter for polite conversation. As demonstrated in this painting, astronomy gave men the opportunity to educate their female companions, whilst also allowing for intrigue and flirtation under the cover of darkness.

David Dabydeen, in his book ‘Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art’, comments that: ‘Pictures like Richard Houston's Astronomy poke fun at the aristocracy’s interest in the sciences.’ (David Dabydeen, ‘Hogarth’s Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art’, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1987, p.136).

Richard Houston (1721-1775): Richard Houston was born in Dublin, and was apprenticed to John Brooks as a draughtsman and mezzotint-engraver. He studied drawing at the Dublin Society Schools before moving to London with Brooks in 1746, establishing himself as an independent printmaker and publisher. Although he produced some good work, Houston was unable to sustain his independent status and he spent the rest of his career working for other print sellers including Robert Sayer.

There are various prints entitled ‘Astronomy’ in public collections worldwide. The Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, has a print of 'Astronomy', which was printed for and sold by John Boydell, William Herbert, and Frances Bull, London, c.1766-1775. It is an engraving which has been hand-coloured and framed. The primary inscription reads: ‘ASTRONOMY. | London Printed for & Sold by F. Bull on Ludgate Hill, J. Boydell in Cheapside, & W. Herbert on London Bridge.’ The print is evidently one of a series. There are similar prints of ‘POETRY’, ‘SCULPTURE’ and ‘PAINTING’, which also depict figures in a landscape with buildings in the background. (Museum of the History of Science, Oxford; Inventory Number: 27674).

A hand-coloured print - ‘Astronomy’ - is housed in the Winterthur Museum’s collection. Created by Robert Sayer after Richard Houston, it is dated c.1766-1775 (Winterthur Museum; Museum Object Number: 1957.0126.019 A).

A print by Richard Houston entitled ‘Astronomy’, c.1750 is housed in the collections of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Dimensions
Height 32.00 cm (12.60 inches)
Width 48.00 cm (18.90 inches)
Stock Code
497a
Medium
Watercolour and gouache on paper
Thomas Coulborn & Sons

Thomas Coulborn & Sons
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Sutton Coldfield
West Midlands
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England

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