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King Lear in the Storm

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (published)

  • Date:

    1793 (published)

  • Artist/Maker:

    West, Benjamin, born 1738 - died 1820 (artist)
    Sharp, William, born 1749 - died 1824 (etcher)
    John & Josiah Boydell (publisher)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Etching and engraving, ink on paper

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries, case WW

Object Type
This print is a combination of two techniques: etching and engraving. Etched lines are formed by the action of acid on the metal printing plate, but engraved ones are gouged into the plate with a sharp-pointed tool called a burin.

This print is after a painting by the American-born artist Benjamin West (1738-1820) for the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. This 'Shakespeare Gallery', first proposed by John Boydell (1719-1804) in 1786, was his most ambitious project: a series of commissioned oil paintings representing scenes from Shakespeare's plays; a collection of engravings after the paintings; and a new edition of Shakespeare's plays. The last-named was published in 1802 with accompanying engravings. The 'Shakespeare Gallery' opened at 52 Pall Mall, London, on 4 May 1789, with 34 paintings by prominent British artists, including West, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792) and Henry Fuseli (1741-1825). It was planned that the sale of the prints would finance the project. But subscribers to the prints became displeased with the long production delays, and not all the prints were of high quality. This print was well received, however, and was one of the most successful in the series.

Subjects Depicted
This print shows a scene from Act III, scene iv of Shakespeare's play King Lear. It depicts the deranged Lear and his companions in a storm on a heath. Lear is attempting to tear off his clothes, while his companions try to persuade him to take shelter in the hovel seen on the right.

Physical description


Place of Origin

London (published)


1793 (published)


West, Benjamin, born 1738 - died 1820 (artist)
Sharp, William, born 1749 - died 1824 (etcher)
John & Josiah Boydell (publisher)

Materials and Techniques

Etching and engraving, ink on paper


Width: 59.3 cm in mount

Object history note

Part of a group of objects previously in possession of Mr. R.S.Smith [South Kensington Museum employee?].

Descriptive line

Etching, King Lear in the Storm, based on a painting by Benjamin West, etched in London by William Sharp, 1792, published by John Boydell and Josiah Boydell, 1793

Labels and date

British Galleries:
In 1789 John Boydell opened his Shakespeare Gallery showing paintings of Shakespearean subjects by leading British artists. He made his money from publishing prints of them, using the exhibition as a marketing device. This print was a bestseller. A view of the Gallery is shown in the drawer of the desk case below. [27/03/2003]


Printing ink


Engraving; Etching; Printing

Subjects depicted

Torches (lighting devices); Storm; Monarchs; Men


Prints; Royalty; Shakespeare


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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