December 6, 2011

Engravings by George Cruikshank

        George Cruikshank (1792-1878) was an artist and engraver who came to fame first as a satirical cartoonist, then later as an illustrator.  He learned painting, caricature, and engraving as his father's apprentice, but he quickly outstripped his father.  He was considered the "Hogarth" of his era for his social and political caricatures.  His popularity
and influence are indicated by the fact that he was given a royal bribe not to "caricature His Majesty in any immoral situation" (in 1820).  One of the causes he embraced later in his life was abstinence, and he eventually shifted from illustration to produce several series of engravings portraying the evils of alcohol.
        But Cruikshank isn't here on "Black and White" just as an engraver.  It's his work as an illustrator - and an illustrator of fantasy - that earns him a post here.  Cruikshank illustrated some of Dickens's work, notably Oliver Twist (for which he claimed credit for much of the plot, to Dickens's irritation), but I'm most interested in his illustrations of fairy tales.  I believe his first were for German Popular Stories,
the first English translation of the Grimm Brothers' tales.  He also did a number of other fairy tales which he edited himself as a vehicle for his illustrations.
        Many of Cruikshank's fantasy illustrations maintain his satirical style with rather caricatured depictions of noblemen and villains.  He's been credited with being one of the first to put humor in illustrations for children.  There's a more gentle humor in the look on Cinderella's face at the appearance of her fairy godmother - a bit taken aback, a bit surprised, maybe a bit dubious about this strange little old woman.
        But I particularly like Cruikshank's backgrounds, especially the interiors.  In his illustration for The Golden Bird, Cruikshank puts a wonderful castle in the background (and I like the whimsey of the young man riding the fox's tail.)  The illustration for Jorinde and Joringel
captures perfectly the strange, brooding atmosphere of the story with its dark castle hung with hundreds of bird cages.  I love the intricate vaulting.

        (You can see more Cruikshank illustrations - and tons more fairy tale illustrations by dozens of other illustrators - at the great site SurLaLune.  Check it out.)

[Pictures: A Splendid Spread, engraving by George Cruikshank from The Comic Almanack, 1850;
Fagin in the condemned Cell, copperplate engraving by Cruikshank from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, 1838 (first two images from Wikimedia Commons);
Frontspiece for Cinderella and the Glass Slipper, engraving by Cruikshank from Fairy Library edited by Cruikshank, 1854;
The Golden Bird, copperplate engraving by Cruikshank from German Popular Stories by Grimm, 1823 (image from Rosenbach Museum & Library);
Jorinde and Joringel, copperplate engraving by Cruikshank from German Popular Stories by Grimm, 1823.]


Anonymous said...

Okay! So I am a sucker for humor in art work. And Cruikshank is one of the best. You gotta love that hoop skirt so vast that her partner cannot even reach her to dance; and that dude riding on the fox's tail. Yes, these are clever and imaginative prints. Thanks for calling them to our attention. That's what I like about some of the Nydam prints, too. "Time Flies," "The Enormous Turnip," and "Catch Me" come to mind. Let's have more of that Nydam humor showing through.
The Aging Wordsmith

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence - and don't worry, I'm still giggling through life.

Irene Alassio said...

where did you find the information about the "caricature His Majesty in any immoral situation" (in 1820). i need for uni urgently can you help me?

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hello, Irene,
I found the quotation in the Wikipedia article about Cruikshank, which footnotes it to Gatrell, Vic. City of Laughter: Sex and Satire in Eighteenth-Century London. New York: Walker & Co., 2006. Sorry I can't point you to a page number or anything more specific.
Good luck with the project!
- Anne

Irene Alassio said...

thank you so much :-)

Lorna Huntington-Mills said...

Hi, I have a Cruikshank engraving called 'Consolation in the Gout' but it says 'engraved by woodward 1796' is this still considered a Cruikshank? Many thanks.