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George Cruikshank (27 September 1792 – 1 February 1878) was a British caricaturist and book illustrator, praised as the "modern Hogarth" during his life. His book illustrations for Charles Dickens - who was his friend - and many other authors reached an international audience.

Early life

A young George Cruikshank.
Cruikshank was born on 27 September 1792 in London. His father, Isaac Cruikshank, was one of the leading caricaturists of the late 1790’s and Cruikshank started his career as his father's apprentice and assistant.

His older brother, Isaac Robert, also followed in the family business as a caricaturist and illustrator. Cruikshank's early work was caricature; but in 1823, at the age of 31, he started to focus on book illustration.

On October 16, 1827, he married Mary Ann Walker (1807-1849). Two years after her death, on March 7, 1851, he married Eliza Widdison. The two lived at 263 Hampstead Road, North Londonmarker.

Sociopolitical caricatures and illustrations

Cruikshank's early career was renowned for his social caricatures of English life for popular publications.He achieved early success collaborating with William Hone in his political satire The Political House That Jack Built (1819). His first major work was Pierce Egan's Life in London (1821). This was followed by The Comic Almanack (1835-1853) and Omnibus (1842).
His gained notoriety with his political prints that attacked the royal family and leading politicians. In 1820 he received a royal bribe of £100 for a pledge "not to caricature His Majesty" (George IV of the United Kingdom) "in any immoral situation". His work included a personification of England named John Bull who was developed from about 1790 in conjunction with other British satirical artists such as James Gillray, and Thomas Rowlandson.

Cruikshank replaced one of his major influences, James Gillray, as England's most popular satirist. For a generation he delineated Tories, Whigs and Radicals impartially. Satirical material came to him from every public event—wars abroad, the enemies of Britain (he was highly patriotic), the frolic, among other qualities, such as the weird and terrible, in which he excelled. His hostility to enemies of Britain and a crude racism is evident in his illustrations commissioned to accompany William Maxwell's History of the Irish rebellion in 1798 (1845) where his lurid depictions of incidents in the rebellion were characterised by the simian-like portrayal of Irish rebels. Among the other racially engaged works of Cruikshank there were caricatures about the "legal barbarities" of the Chinese, the subject given by his friend, Dr. W. Gourley, a participant in the ideological battle around the Arrow War, 1856-60.

Charles Dickens

For Charles Dickens, Cruikshank illustrated Sketches by Boz (1836), The Mudfog Papers (1837–38) and Oliver Twist (1838). Cruikshank even acted in Dickens' amateur theatrical company.

On 30 December 1871 Cruikshank published a letter in The Times which claimed credit for much of the plot of Oliver Twist. The letter launched a fierce controversy around who created the work. Cruikshank was not the first Dickens' illustrator to make such a claim. Robert Seymour who illustrated the Pickwick Papers suggested that the idea for that novel was originally his; however, in his preface to the 1867 edition, Dickens strenuously denied any specific input.

The friendship between Cruikshank and Dickens soured further when Cruikshank became a fanatical teetotaler in opposition to Dickens' views of moderation.


In the late 1840s, Cruikshank's focus shifted from book illustration to an obsession with temperance and anti-smoking. Formerly a heavy drinker, he now supported, lectured to, and supplied illustrations for the National Temperance Society and the Total Abstinence Society among others. The best known of these are The Bottle, 8 plates (1847), with its sequel, The Drunkard's Children, 8 plates (1848), with the ambitious work, The Worship of Bacchus, published by subscription after the artist's oil painting, now in the National Gallery, Londonmarker. For his efforts he was made vice president of the National Temperance League in 1856.

Later years

After developing palsy in later life, Cruikshank's health and work began to decline in quality. He died on 1 February 1878 and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedralmarker. Punch magazine said in its obituary: "There never was a purer, simpler, more straightforward or altogether more blameless man. His nature had something childlike in its transparency."

In his lifetime he created nearly 10,000 prints, illustrations, and plates. Collections of his works are in the Britishmarker and the Victoria and Albertmarker museums.

Samples of his work

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, GentlemanFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate I. The Effects of Trim's Eloquence.jpg|Plate IFile:George_Cruikshank_-_Tristram_Shandy%2C_Plate_II._Obadiah_leading_in_Dr._Slop.jpg|Plate IIFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate III. The Jack-boots transformed into Mortars.jpg|Plate IIIFile:George_Cruikshank_-_Tristram_Shandy,_Plate_IV._The_long-nosed_Stranger_of_Strasburg.jpg|Plate IVFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate V. My Uncle Toby on his Hobby-horse.jpg|Plate VFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate VI. Trim's relation of Tristram's misfortune.jpg|Plate VIFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate VII. The Quarrel of Slop and Susannah.jpg|Plate VIIFile:George Cruikshank - Tristram Shandy, Plate VIII. The Smoking Batteries.jpg|Plate VIIIOthersImage:Jacco1.jpg|Jacco Macacco at the Westminster-Pit
Copperplate engraving, circa 1820.
Image:1819-Prince-Regent-G-Cruikshank-caricature.png|An unflattering 1819 caricature of the Prince Regent illustrating "The Political House that Jack Built" by William Hone.Image:1850-g-cruikshank-crinoline-parody.png|"A Splendid Spread", early satire on the crinoline from The Comic Almanack for 1850.Image:Cruikshank-Self-Portrait-1858.jpg|George Cruikshank, Self-Portrait.Image:Cruikshank-dandies.jpg|Humming-birds--or--a dandy trio. 1819.Image:Monstrosities.jpg|Monstrosities of 1818, extravagant clothing styles of men's and women's fashions.Image:Loo in the Kitchen.jpg|A group of servants gathered in a kitchen, ape the manners of their employers.Image:Old Maid.jpg|Caricature of the Old BaileyImage:Spectacles-op.jpg|Caricature concerning the prices at the Covent Garden TheaterImage:British valour.jpg|1813 Caricature showing the Americans as cowardly in face of the British.Image:Regent's brithday.jpg|Cruikshank cartoon showing George, the Prince Regent, dancing and drinking at a lavish party with another man's wife.Image:Cruikshank - Snuffing out Boney.png|Snuffing out Boney , 1814Image:1841 december 280.jpg|December - A Swallow at Christmas (Rara avis in terris).


  1. Gatrell, Vic. City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London. New York: Walker & Co., 2006

Further reading

  • Cruikshank, George. (1980). Graphic Works of George Cruikshank. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-23438-X
  • Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, Mary Dorothy George. Vol VI 1938, Vol VII, 1942 VOL VIII 1947, VOL IX 1949
  • Dictionary of British Cartoonists and caricaturists 1730-1980 Bryant and Heneage, Scolar Press 1994
  • The Book Illustrations of George Cruikshank Buchanan-Brown, John. Charles Tuttle 1980
  • George Cruikshank A Catalogue Raisonne of the work executed during the years 1896-1977 Cohn, Albert M . Bookmans Journal, London 1924

External links

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