George Cuitt (1779–1854) – 'England's Piranesi': His Life and Work and a Catalogue Raisonné of His Etchings

George Cuitt (1779–1854) – \'England\'s Piranesi\': His Life and Work and a Catalogue Raisonné of His Etchings


George Cuitt (1779–1854), who lived and worked in Chester and North Yorkshire, was described during his lifetime as ‘not only undoubtedly the first etcher, but also one of the most original artists this country has ever produced’. Although an accomplished sketcher and painter of landscapes and architecture, he was inspired by the prints of Giovanni Battista Piranesi to adopt etching as the medium for his published work. His etchings produced between 1808 and 1834 were more recently described as having ‘no equal in Britain and no superior in the similar school of any nation’.

Born in Richmond, Yorkshire, Cuitt trained as an artist under his father’s tuition and commenced a parallel career as a drawing master, moving to Chester in 1804 where he was to produce and publish over half of his total output. The profits from teaching and sale of his publications enabled him to gain ‘a handsome independence’ and to return to Masham in North Yorkshire in 1821, where he built an elegant house, pursued his passions for gardening and fishing, and produced his celebrated series of etchings of Yorkshire abbeys, considered by many to be his finest works.

Here, for the first time, all Cuitt’s known etchings – both published and unpublished – are illustrated and described, enabling a detailed assessment of his unique ability to combine an atmospheric, romantic and poetic vision with accurate architectural and landscape depictions of Chester, North Wales, Cumbria, Warwickshire and Yorkshire. Newly-researched essays are added to this definitive Catalogue. As well as a biography of Cuitt, incorporating much recently discovered material, topics covered include Cuitt’s art, the role of the drawing master in Regency England, the process of etching, and the economics of print production and distribution. This collective evidence contributes significantly towards re-establishing Cuitt’s reputation as ‘one of the finest, in his chosen line the very finest, of our native Etchers’.

Extract from a forthcoming book review to be published in Volume 63 of Cheshire History by Professor Graeme White (Emeritus Professor of Local History, University of Chester):

"This magisterial work is the culmination of a long-term labour of love on which Peter Boughton of the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, was engaged until his death at the age of 59 in 2019. It has been completed by Ian Dunn, former County Archivist for Cheshire, and is fittingly dedicated to the memory of Peter Boughton, aptly described as ‘curator, teacher and communicator, champion of artists and the fine arts in Cheshire and beyond' ...

Although Peter Boughton did not live to see his book published, he has left us a wonderful legacy. Ian Dunn’s work in seeing the book to completion has also been of the highest order. This is that rarest of books, one which will still carry authority a century from now. It is the product of thorough, intelligent and painstaking work, scholarly yet readable, beautifully illustrated and a great credit to all who have been involved in its production."

Bibliographic information

Peter Boughton and Ian Dunn, George Cuitt (1779–1854) – 'England's Piranesi': His Life and Work and a Catalogue Raisonné of His Etchings, 2022, ISBN 978-1-910481-07-3, £35.00 (plus postage). This title is only published in A4 hardback format. 

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