Written in two volumes, this is the first documentary biography of one of the most influential British graphic artists of any period who, as a political and social caricaturist, was also a great commentator on his times.
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The etchings and wood-engravings of George Cruikshank (1792–1878) recorded, commented on and satirised his times to such an extent that they have frequently been used to represent the age. Cruikshank, a popular artist in the propaganda war against Napoleon, an ardent campaigner for Reform and Temperance, and the foremost illustrator of such classics as Grimms' Fairy Tales, Scott's novels and Dicken's Oliver Twist, is known for his versatility, imagination, humour and incisive images. His long life, marked by a ceaseless struggle to win recognition for his art, intersected with the lives of many of Britain's important political, social and cultural leaders.
In this first volume of Robert Patten's two-volume biography, which covers the artist's Regency caricatures and early book illustrations, Patten demonstrates the ways in which Cruikshank was, as his contemporaries frequently declared, the Hogarth of the nineteenth century. Having reviewed over 8,500 unpublished letters and most of Cruikshank's 12,000 or more printed images, Patten gives a thorough and reliable account of the artist's career. He puts Cruikshank's achievement into a variety of larger contexts – publishing history, political and cultural history, the traditions of figuration practised by Cruikshank's contemporaries, and the literary and social productions of nineteenth century Britain.
This biography provides both the general reader and the specialist with a wealth of new information conveyed in lively, non-technical prose. Patten's book contributes to current investigation of the rich interactions between high art and low, texts and pictures, politics and imagination.
Preface: To the Reader
Phase 1: "Cradled in Caricature," 1792–1820
1. What's in a Name?
2. All My Relatives Were Scots
3. A Naughty Boy
4. A Picture of Life
5. What Can You Do, If Your Pelvis is Wrong?
6. George Cruikshank Invenit
7. Too Much Fun of Too Many Things
8. The Pursuit and Torment of "Little Boney"
9. "Twit, Twittle, Twit": The Trials of William Hone
10. The Most Important Design I Ever Made
11. The Dandy of Sixty
12. The Very Tar in Art
Phase 2: "The Finest Things, Next to Rembrandt's," 1820–1835
13. Late Hours, Blue Ruin, and Dollies
14. Epigrams of Design
15. A Thorough-Bred Artist
16. A Sketching Dante
17. To Work – "With a Will"
18. A Work Begun in Sadness
19. Indestructible as Punch
20. Thumbnail Designs
21. An "Average-European" Style
22. Drawing in Albums
23. Prince of Humorous Designers
24. The Arch and Able Pencil
Concerning Transcriptions and References
Index of Cruikshank's Works
Robert L. Patten is a professor of English at Rice University. He is the author of Charles Dickens and His Publishers and of many essays on Cruikshank and Dickens. This project received support from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities Center, the Centre for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art, and the Swann Foundation for Caricature and Cartoon.
Patten has confronted a huge often baffling mass of Cruikshank's achievement head on ... meticulous ... a fine wide-ranging lesson in English history, politics, and publishing. ... Patten's particular achievement is to have looked at Cruikshank with fresh eyes, and to have liberated him from the captivity of collectors who have been nibbling at and burnishing him for decades, often with the artist's active compliance. The New York Times Book Review
I marvelled at the detail in Robert Patten's George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art: Vol I ... a full to bursting account of what it took to rival Gillray in one era and set Dickens going in another. William Feaver, in The Observer
What the book really gives us is a clear exposition of the practicalities of the life and art of a genius ... In the Prologue we have what to this reader is the most evocative and lucid description of the processes of etching and engraving he has encountered. David Bruce, in Antiquarian Book Monthly
Patten's book enthrals from the first page ... Let's hope that we shall not have to wait another 25 years to read Patten on this rich ardent and much derided phase of Cruikshank's career. John Carey, in The Sunday Times
Patten has apparently read every letter, examined every visual source, and thus is equipped to comment on virtually everything Cruikshank produced. Marc Baer, in Print Quarterly
... telling, instructive, analytic ... sets forth Cruikshank's achievements over 60 years with deep-delving analysis and plentiful context ... helps us see why Cruikshank was an inspiration for a wide range of graphic artists and modern illustrators. Print Quarterly
... extremely detailed ... monumental ... great and perceptive detail throughout the text ... Prof. Patten seems to have read every item of contemporary correspondence by, to, or relating to Cruikshank and furthermore he weaves that which is relevant so seamlessly into his narrative that the reader of this biography almost feels as if he were present as the events described unfold. Prof. Patten is so well qualified, perhaps uniquely so, to analyse and discuss the relationship between Dickens and Cruikshank ... a vast amount of supporting detail. Bookdealer
... big compliments to the second and last volume of the admirable George Cruikshank biography by Robert L. Patten ... Cruikshank, maybe the most popular English artist in the nineteenth century, is finding at last this recognition he looked for in vain during all of his life. Ridiculosa 4
... gigantic study ... long-meditated biography. The biographical narrative is central, but Patten ensures that the supplementary stories are told. Dr. Patten is, as always, a keen observer of the qualities of the artist's work but his critical assessment is integrated into the circumstances surrounding the production. The value of this giant study for later specialist investigators will be the firm delineation of the setting within which Cruikshank's pell-mell activities took place. Children's Books History Society Newsletter
... a triumph of the biographer's art – learned but lively, obsessed but always objective, and above all managing to convey the sheer raciness of the subject's long life. ... Patten's achievement is to bring out his centrality to the various worlds in which Cruikshank moved. Without Cruikshank, as Patten shows, English comic art – and 19th century English literature – would have been radically different entities. D.J. Taylor, in The Guardian