CRUIKSHANK, George
(b. 1792, London, d. 1878, London)

Biography

English printmaker and draftsman, an artist famous for his political cartoons and prolific book illustrations. In his later career he made moral narratives in woodcut, especially in regards to the temperance movement. Cruikshank was also an actor.

His father, Isaac Cruikshank, was a caricaturist who died as a result of his alcoholism in 1811. After a brief education at an elementary school in Edgeware, Cruikshank set himself up as a caricaturist in London. An early influence on Cruikshank was James Gillray, Britain's leading caricaturist at the time.

Cruikshank was soon selling his drawings to over twenty different printsellers. This included a large caricature that appeared in each issue of William Jones's satirical magazine, The Scourge. These early drawings included attacks on the royal family and leading politicians such as Lord Castlereagh and Lord Sidmouth.

In 1818 George Cruikshank joined forces with Radical publisher and bookseller, William Hone, who was playing a leading role in the campaign against the Gagging Acts. In their struggle for press freedom, the two men produced The Political House that Jack Built. Hone later recalled he got the idea while reading the House That Jack Built to his four-year-old daughter. The 24 page pamphlet contained political nursery rhymes written by Hone and twelve illustrations by Cruikshank. The Political House That Jack Built was an immediate success selling over 100,000 copies in a few months.

The two men followed this success with a series of political pamphlets including The Queen's Matrimonial Ladder (1819) and The Man in the Moon (1820). In August 1821 the two men produced a mock newspaper, A Slap at Slop. Cruikshank did not hold strong political beliefs and was willing to produce anti-radical prints for Tory booksellers like George Humphrey.

Cruikshank appears to have lost interest in politics in the 1820s and began to concentrate on theatrical caricatures and book illustrations. In 1836 he met Charles Dickens and the two men worked on several projects together. Cruikshank illustrated Sketches by Boz (1836) and Oliver Twist (1838) and also supplied the drawings for Bentley's Miscellany, a journal edited by Dickens.

Like many artists, Cruikshank was unhappy about the changes that had resulted from the Industrial Revolution. He was a strong supporter of the Temperance Society and in 1847 produced The Bottle which sold almost 100,000 copies and The Drunkard's Children (1848).



© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.