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separated, when each was left to his own individual resources, George then struck into a path which neither Robert nor any of his contemporaries might hope to follow. By the time Robert had realized this fact, HB had appeared, and the art of caricaturing, as theretofore practised, received a blow from which it will never rally. Besides being an able water colour artist, he had at one time achieved some reputation as a portrait painter; but the latter pursuit he had long practically abandoned, while success in the former required a closer application and the exercise of a greater amount of patience than a man of his age and temperament could afford to bestow. He was, in fact, too old to commence life afresh; and so it came inevitably to pass that, as his brother did in after life (but from causes, as we shall see, widely different), Robert gradually dropped behind and was forgotten. He had not the genius or pride in his art of his brother, and looked rather to that art as a means of present livelihood than of acquiring a permanent and enduring reputation. If George—with all his pride in his art, with all his genius, with all his rare gists of imagination and fancy-was destined to be left behind in the race of life, what could poor Robert hope for? It is sad to think that in later life, poor easygoing, thristless, careless, Bohemian Robert sank into neglect and consequent poverty. He died (of bronchitis) on the 13th of March, 1856, in his sixty-sixth year.
THE CARICATURES OF GEORGE CRUIKSHANK.
SIXTY YEARS AGO
Just sixty years ago, a writer in Blackwood spoke of the subject of the present chapter (then a young man who had already acquired an artistic reputation) in the following terms :
" It is high time that the public should think more than they have hitherto done of George Cruikshank; and it is also high time that George Cruikshank should begin to think more than he seems to have done hitherto of himself. Generally speaking, people consider him as a clever, sharp caricaturist, and nothing more ; a free-handed, comical young fellow, who will do anything he is paid for, and who is quite contented to dine off the proceeds of a
George IV.' to-day, and those of a ‘Hone,' or a 'Cobbett' to-morrow. He himself, indeed, appears to be the most careless creature alive, as touching his reputation. He seems to have no plan-almost no ambition—and, I apprehend, not much industry. He does just what is suggested or thrown in his way, pockets the cash, orders his beef-steak and bowl, and chaunts, like one of his own heroes,
• Lise is all a variorium,
We regard not how it goes.' Now, for a year or two to begin with, this is just what it should be. Cruikshank was resolved to see Life,* and his sketches show that he has seen it, in some of its walks, to purpose. But life is short, and art is long; and our gay friend must pull up. “ Perhaps he is not aware of the fact himself-but a fact it
• Alluding to the “Life in London.”
undoubtedly is—that he possesses genius-genius in its truest sense
-strong, original, English genius. Look round the world of art, and ask, How many are there of whom anything like this can be said ? Why, there are not half a dozen names that could bear being mentioned at all ; and certainly there is not one, the pretensions of which will endure sifting, more securely and more triumphantly than that of George Cruikshank. In the first place, he is - what no living caricaturist but himself has the least pretensions to be, and what, indeed, scarcely one of their predecessors was-he is a thoroughbred artist.* He draws with the ease and freedom and fearlessness of a master; he understands, the figure completely ; and appears, so far as one can guess from the trifling sort of things he has done, to have a capital notion of the principles of grouping. Now these things are valuable in themselves, but they are doubly, trebly valuable as possessed by a person of real comic humour; and a total despiser of that Venerable Humbug which almost all the artists of our day seem, in one shape or other, to revere as the prime god of their idolatry. Nobody, that has the least of an eye for art, can doubt that Cruikshank, if he chose, might design as many annunciations, beatifications, apotheoses, metamorphoses, and so forth, as would cover York cathedral from end to end. It is still more impossible to doubt that he might be a famous portrait painter. Now, these are fine lines both of them, and yet it is precisely the chief merit of Cruikshank that he cuts them both; that he will have nothing to do with them; that he has chosen a walk of his own, and that he has made his own walk popular. Here lies genius; but let him do himself justice ; let him persevere and rise in his own path, and then, ladies and gentlemen, then the day will come when his name will be a name indeed, not a name puffed and paraded in the newspapers, but a living, a substantial, perhaps even an illustrious, English name. Let him, in one word, proceed, and, as he proceeds, let him think of Hogarth.” +
* This certainly was not true ; both Gillray and Rowlandson were draughtsmen and artists of exceptionable ability,
+ The article from which this is quoted is variously assigned to Professor Wilsor
Now, although amused (and surely he cannot fail to be amused) at the curious incapacity of an art critic so strangely ignorant of his subject as to conceive George Cruikshank an artist capable of designing annunciations, beatifications, apotheoses, and subjects so completely out of the range of his sympathies and abilities, the reader will, at the same time, be struck with the prescience of the intelligent writer who discerned in him the possession of true genius, and predicted for him, even at this early period of his career, the reputation—“living, substantial,” and “illustrious "—which he afterwards so justly achieved for himself. · In everything save the power to realize an annunciation, a beatification, or an apotheosis, George Cruikshank was, at the time this article was penned, exactly what Mr. Lockhart describes him." The most able and accomplished of the caricaturists of his time, he was nevertheless willing to etch the works of an amateur or of an artist inferior to himself, to whose work he has frequently imparted a vitality of which it would have been destitute but for the interposition of his hand. He was ready, moreover, to execute woodcuts for a song-book or the political skits of any scribbler of his time, whether on the ministerial or the popular side mattered little to him. It was therefore rot unnatural that doing “just what was suggested or thrown in his way,” Lockhart should come to the erroneous conclusion that the artist had “no plan," " no ambition,” and “not much industry." The assertion that he had “no arnbition " has been amply disproved by his subsequent life, whilst so far from having "no plan,” the sequel shows that all this time, unsuspected by the critic, he had been gradually developing the style of illustration by which he made his mark and reputation,-a style first displayed in the celebrated “Points of Humour," the publication of which served as the occasion for Lockhart's criticism.
On this account, if for no other reason, the caricatures of George Cruikshank possess so remarkable an interest, that it is singular that this field of artistic labour has been left almost unexplored and Lockhart; it matters little which. Meanwhile, we must have a name, let it be Lockhart's.
by the essayists, many of whom, with a somewhat imperfect knowiedge of their subject, have essayed to give us information on the subject of this artist and his works. It is just this early period of his life, in which he first followed and then gradually emancipated himself from the artistic control and influence of Gillray, which seems to us to afford the most interesting study of the man's career. Nevertheless, nearly all the articles we have read on George Cruikshank would give us the idea that, with the exception of certain designs for woodcuts for Hone—such as the celebrated Non Mi Ricordo and others—certain rough coloured engravings for “ The Meteor,” “The Scourge,” and other periodicals of a kindred stamp, the artist executed but few caricatures properly so called. This at least is the impression which these articles have left on our own minds; and we can only account for the little notice taken of him as a caricaturist by the fact that, unlike the etchings which he produced when in the prime of his career, his caricatures are not only exceedingly scarce, but being in many cases unsigned, are capable only of being recognised by those intimately acquainted with his early handiwork.
The caricatures of George Cruikshank may be divided into three classes : first, those which are wholly designed and etched by himself ; secondly, those which he designed after the sketches or suggestions of his friends; and thirdly, those merely etched from the designs of other artists. We find the first, although frequently unsigned, more usually signed (on the left hand), “Geo. Cruik* fect.” or “invt. & fect.”; the second—“invt. G. Cruikk. fect. ;" while the third are indicated as merely etched by him. Of the second class it may be remarked that with the exception of the mere sketch or suggestion, the drawing and the workmanship are oftentimes unmistakably George's own. In the description of his caricatures which follow, we shall indicate the designs which belong to this class with an asterisk.
Publications such as “The Scourge,” although containing many caricature designs by George Cruikshank, are scarcely among those to which the present chapter was intended to be devoted.