George Cruikshank (1792-1878)
Cruikshank was one of the most prolific illustrators and satirical artists
working in England and often referred to as the 'modern Hogarth'. Born in
London, a member of the Cruikshank family of caricaturists and artists. His
father Isaac was a well-known engraver and caricaturist who taught him etching,
watercolour and drawing.
In 1811 while George was still in his teens, he gained popular success with
his series of political caricatures that he created for the periodical, The
Scourge, a Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly. This
publication lasted until 1816, during which time Cruikshank came to rival James
Gillray, the leading English caricaturist of the preceding era. In fact,
because their style was so similar as to be indistinguishable, Cruikshank was
employed by Hannah Humphrey, James Gillray's publisher and landlady, to finish
plates Gillray was too ill to complete.
In the 1820's, Cruikshank began his book illustration period of his career
with his most famous being for Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz (1836)
and Oliver Twist (1838).
In the 1830's he began campaigning against the abuses of alcohol, especially
gin. In 1847 he renounced all alcohol and became an enthusiastic supporter of
the Temperance Society in Great Britain. Cruikshank produced a long series of
pictures and illustrations, pictorial pamphlets and tracts for the Society.
Cruikshank's crusade against the evils of alcohol culminated in The Worship
of Bacchus, published by subscription and based on the artist's vast oil
painting of the same name, now in the Tate Gallery in London. George conceived
the idea for the painting during an 1859 weekly meeting of the Committee of the
National Temperance League. He planned a "monumental painting depicting
all phases of drunkenness, from beggar to lord and cradle to grave." He
began the huge painting in 1860 and completed it in 1862.