MATTHIAS DARLY, r8th-century English caricaturist, designer and engraver. This extremely versatile artist not only issued political caricatures, but designed ceilings, chimneypieces, mirror frames, girandoles, decorative panels and other mobiliary accessories, made many engravings for Thomas Chippendale, and sold his own productions over the counter. He was apparently an architect by profession. The first publication which can be attributed to him with certainty is a coloured caricature, "The Cricket Players of Europe" (1741). In 1754 he issued A new Book of Chinese Designs, which was intended to minister to the passing craze for furniture and household decorations in the Chinese style. It was in this year that he engraved many of the plates for the Director of Thomas Chippendale. He published from many addresses, most of them in the Strand or its immediate neighbourhood, and his shop was for a long period perhaps the most important of its kind in London. In his book Nollekens and his Times, J. T. Smith, writing of Richard Cosway, says: - "So ridiculously foppish did he become that Matth. Darly, the famous caricature print seller, introduced an etching of him in his window in the Strand as the ` Macaroni Miniature Painter.'" Darly was for many years in partnership with a man named Edwards, and together they published many political prints, which were originally issued separately and collected annually into volumes under the title of Political and Satirical History. Darly was a member both of the Incorporated Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists, forerunners of the Royal Academy, and to their exhibitions he contributed many architectural drawings, together with a profile etching of himself (1775). Upon one of these etchings, published from 39 Strand, he is described as "Professor of Ornament to the Academy of Great Britain." Darly's most important publication was The Ornamental Architect or Young Artists' Instructor (1770-1771), a title which was changed in the edition of 1773 to A Compleat Body of Architecture, embellished with a great Variety of Ornaments. He also issued Sixty Vases by English, French and Italian Masters (1767). In addition to his immense mass of other productions Darly executed many book plates, illustrated various books and cabinet-makers' catalogues, and gave lessons in etching. His skill as a caricaturist brought him into close personal relations with the politicians of his time, and in 1763 he was instrumental in saving John Wilkes, whose partisan he was, from death at the hands of James Dunn, who had determined to kill him. Darly, who described himself as "Liveryman and block maker," issued his last caricature in October 1780, and as his shop, No. 39 Strand, was let to a new tenant in the following year, it is to be presumed that he had by that time died, or become incapable of further work. As a designer of furniture Darly travelled in a dozen years or so from the extremes of pseudo-Chinese affectation to classical severity of the type popularized by the brothers Adam.
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