BUNBURY, Henry William

1750 - 1811

Born at the Manor House, Mildenhall, Suffolk on 1 July 1750, second son of the Revd Sir William Bunbury, 5th bart. (c.1710–1764) and vicar of Mildenhall, and his wife, Eleanor (d.1762), daughter of Colonel Vere Graham, of Wix Abbey, Essex. Educated at Westminster School, London, where he began producing his characteristically humorous drawings, including 'The Judgment of Paris', this and his other early compositions were etched by the artist, but after c.1771 all his published drawings were etched by professional engravers. On 30 January 1768 he entered St Catharine's College, Cambridge and university life inspired works such as 'The Hopes of the Family' and 'Pot Fair, Cambridge', exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776. A tour of France in 1767 whetted his appetite for foreign travel and in 1769, he abandoned his university studies, and took the grand tour, travelling from Paris to Naples. The tour resulted in a flood of works poking fun at foreigners, and particularly at the French; 'La Cuisine de la Poste' was shown at the Royal Academy in 1770 and won acclaim, notably from the connoisseur and collector Horace Walpole, who subsequently heralded Bunbury as ‘the second Hogarth’. Although readmitted to Cambridge in February 1771, Bunbury seems never to have taken a degree and in August of that year he married Catherine Horneck (1754–1799), and they settled into a house on his brother's estate at Great Barton, Suffolk. They had two sons Charles John (1772–1798) and Henry Edward (1778-1860), later to succeed to his uncle's title as seventh baronet. Bunbury spent much of his time in London, where he and his wife enjoyed a social life with friends drawn from the aristocracy and artistic and literary circles, including David Garrick, Dr Johnson, and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who was godfather to his second son, and, as a result, was often in financial difficulties. To augment his income he took the post of comptroller of army accounts, c.1775–1784, with an income of £750 per annum; he also served in the West Suffolk militia, rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His depictions of the hilarious antics of inept and reckless horsemen included 'Hints to Bad Horsemen' (1781) and 'An Academy for Grown Horsemen' (1787), written under the pseudonym Geoffrey Gambado Esq. In his later years Bunbury produced fewer humorous designs, a major commission towards the end of Bunbury's career, from Thomas Macklin, the printseller of Fleet Street, was for a series of forty-eight illustrations from Shakespeare's plays to be engraved by Bartolozzi and others. However, only half the drawings were completed, and the project ground to a halt in 1796. In 1798 Bunbury's son Charles died, followed by his wife the following year. Their combined loss led to a decline in Bunbury's hitherto cheerful personality, and he seems to have turned to drink; he was disparagingly described by the diarist Joseph Farington in 1804 as ‘living most of his time a sotting life at Bury in Suffolk’. Thereafter he lived a retired life, chiefly at Keswick in the Lake District, where he began painting in oils; three compositions were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1806. Alcohol perhaps hastened Bunbury's decline, and his death occurred at Keswick on 7 May 1811. He was buried in the churchyard at Keswick, and a memorial was placed in the family church at Great Barton.




Works by This Painter