The son of a tradesman, Rowlandson became a student in the Royal Academy in 1772. In 1774 he visited Paris, in 1775 he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and won a silver medal in 1777. After establishing a studio as a portrait painter, he began to draw caricatures to supplement his income, and this soon became his major interest. Rowlandson's depictions of life in Georgian England exposed human foibles and vanity with sympathy and humor. Although he is commonly thought of as a satirist, most of his drawings are gently humorous, and in some cases objective, records of urban and rustic life. Rowlandson's reputation suffered in the prudish moral climate of Victorian England, but by the mid 20th century he was recognized as a minor master and one of the most brilliant draughtsmen of his day. In 1789, at the height of critical and popular success, Rowlandson's aunt died, leaving him a large sum. He ran through the money quickly, traveling across Europe and gambling: by 1793 he was impoverished. His fortunes changed in 1797, when he began working for fine-art publisher Rudolph Ackermann, who published most of Rowlandson's finest work for twenty years.