The aquatints were published as part of a portfolio of 36 plates printed between 1787 and 1788 and compiled in 1788 under the title Animals Drawn from Nature and Engraved in Aqua-Tinta. Although the title of the work claims that the animals were “drawn from nature,” they evidently were captive animals in England which Catton placed in invented settings. The original compilation, which may be viewed online, groups the prints according to related species (cat family, antelopes, etc.) and accompanies each print with a one-page description written by Catton. The lion and the lioness are the first and second prints in the publication, because, Catton explains, “The Lion, Being universally esteemed king of the forest, deserves a pre-eminence of station; we therefore introduce him first to notice.” The crocodile appears last in the compilation.
Charles Catton Jr. (also known as Charles Catton the Younger) was a British painter, draftsman, etcher and engraver, known for his architectural, topographical, landscape and animal subjects. Born in London, his first teacher was his father Charles Catton, an artist and Royal Academician who served as heraldic painter to King George III. The younger Catton then studied in the Academy schools and traveled throughout England and Scotland sketching the scenery; some of these were published as prints. He frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1775 and 1800. In addition to Animals Drawn from Nature (1788), Catton is known for his illustrations, in collaboration with Edward Burney, of an edition of Gay’s Fables, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1793 and then published. His last Academy exhibition was in 1800. Catton amassed enough wealth during his career to bring his family to the U.S. and purchase land in the Hudson Valley around 1802, where he spent the rest of his life, apparently mainly in retirement. However, he did exhibit at the American Academy several times between 1816 and 1827.
Full publication information: Each titled lower center and inscribed in lower margin.
The Lion: “Drawn from Life Engrav’d & Publish’d by Chas. Catton Jun’r. No. 7. Tottenham Court Road February 1, 1787.”
Lioness: “Drawn from Life Engrav’d & Publish’d by Chas. Catton Jun’r (as the Act directs,) No. 7. on the Terrace Tottenham Court Road Aug’t. 12th, 1787.”
Crocodile: “Drawn from Life Engrav’d & Publish’d by Chas. Catton Jun’r (as the Act directs) No. 7. on the Terrace Tottenham Court Road Aug’t. 12th, 1787.”
Condition: Each generally very good with the usual overall light toning and wear. Few margin tears and minor dog eared edges to blank margins restored. Lower platemark on Lion irregular relative to margin edge, probably as issued.
Catton, Charles Jr. Animals Drawn from Nature and Engraved in Aqua-Tinta. London: I. and J. Taylor, 1788. Online at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=5FVJAAAAcAAJ (5 April 2013).
Groce, George C. and Wallace, David H. The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1969. p. 116.
Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects, Engravers and Ornamentists. London: Longmans, Green, and Col., 1874. p. 72.
Williamson, George C., ed. Bryan’s Dictionary of Painters and Engravers. London: G. Bell and Sons: 1930. Vol. 1, p. 271.