When I visited the Royal Academy in order to see the Joseph Cornell exhibition, I also popped into Burlington House’s Weston Rooms to see the smaller exhibition entitled Daniel Maclise: The Waterloo Cartoon. This exhibition, which runs until 3 January, marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo and is free with a ticket to one of the other major exhibitions at the RA.
The cartoon was made by Daniel Maclise, an Irish painter and illustrator, in 1858-59 in preparation for a commission at the Houses of Parliament (the finished wall art is still there), The Meeting of Wellington and Blücher After the Battle of Waterloo. The cartoon, which has recently undergone conservation treatment, is one of the largest surviving cartoons in the UK and shows the meeting of the two generals after their victory over Napoleon. Accompanied by staff and soldiers, the work showcases the intensive research Maclise undertook during his preparation, which included eyewitness accounts of the battle. The result is not always 100% accurate but is fairly close nevertheless. The size of the drawing makes an impact, as does the representation of soldiers in all states, including severely injured. The work seems to be trying to evoke an awareness of the heroism of the soldiers involved in the battle, even as it celebrates victory.
Alongside the cartoon, there are a selection of French and Italian prints representing the battle as viewed from the “other side”. Including satirical prints of British soldiers and less flattering images of the generals, they provide an interesting contrast. The exhibition is certainly worth popping into if you’re visiting the RA for Joseph Cornell or Ai Weiwei