Richard Newton Biography

Richard Newton




Richard Newton was possibly born on May 19, 1877 to a haberdasher near Drury Lane Theater in London.  He showed early artistic talent and his father, who was moderately affluent, probably got his son an art instructor. Apprenticeship was common at that time and as a boy of 14 appears to have bee so talented that he started creating his first etchings using his own name, rather than his teacher's.  They were published by the radical publisher William Holland of Oxford Street in London.


Richard Newton became a master of the burlesque, yet was soon forgotten, in part because of the bawdy nature of many of his prints. From the age of fourteen until his early death at twenty-one of "prison fever", this young Londoner etched a stream of hilarious satires of royalty, politicians, greedy churchmen, actresses and courtesans. Some of the funniest caricatures ever made on the battle of the sexes are those by Newton. At the same time his large "Progresses," often poignant as well as amusing, played an important part in the development of the narrative print, prefiguring today's comic strip; the goggle eyes seen in many of his images might come from a Disney cartoon.


Most of his over 300 etchings and aquatints were published by William Holland, a man of literary tastes who wrote the clever dialogues on many of the prints; some of Newton's most fascinating prints are those of Holland and fellow prisoners in Newgate where Holland was imprisoned for sedition for his radical activities in 1793-4.


While visiting Holland in prison Newton contracted typhoid fever and died of the disease, called "Prison Fever" on December 8, 1798  at age 21.