The son of a graphic designer and chromolithographer, William Gaunt established himself as artist, journalist, critic, art historian and the successful author of several books concerning Victorian art, amongst them The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy (1942) and The Aesthetic Adventure (1945).
As an intelligent, quick wit, Gaunt transcribed life in London through expressive drawings and watercolours. In 1930, these were published by The Studio – alongside Gaunt’s text – as ‘London Promenade’ and exhibited at the Royal Academy and Redfern Gallery. Gaunt thought of these satirical caricatures as capturing ‘the fast-vanishing London’. Of this publication, The Graphic wrote, that the artist ‘is likely to prove a great success, because he is good-humoured; he has an eye for the grotesque, but he does not see his fellow man as a grimacing horror; and he writes and draws to amuse himself not to rid himself of spleen. […] His drawing is quite personal, and it tells us just what he wants to say, neither more nor less.’ (R. H. Wilenski, A New Rowlandson: Mr William Gaunt’s pen and brush satire on a fast-vanishing London’, The Graphic, September 27 1930, p.511).
Having edited the annual ‘Modern Publicity’ – which published global advertisements as to draw comparison between various styles of advertising art – Gaunt is likely to have visited an advertising exhibition, perhaps with a critical eye. This cynical take on a 1931 advertising exhibition may well have been exhibited in Gaunt’s solo show, which was held in 1932 at Leger Gallery, New Bond Street. His exhibition was reviewed by The Scotsman, who described Gaunt as 'first-rate humorous draughtsman. He has wit, fancy, and a shrewd eye for types, and he draws with the right comic spirit and abandon.’ (The Scotsman, ‘A Humorous Art: William Gaunt’s exhibition’, October 31 1932, p.11).