Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/156

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ENGLISH CARICATURISTS

graphic powers. To the general public of to-day the name of Robert Cruikshank is so little known, that comparatively few are cognizant of the fact that he was one of the most popular and successful graphic satirists of his time. It is the misfortune of the caricaturist that his wares attain only a transitory popularity, whilst it is their peculiarity that after he is dead their value is increased fourfold. It is by no means uncommon for five and even seven shillings to be demanded and obtained for one of the impressions of Robert's plates, which in his lifetime could have been purchased at the cost of a shilling. It is the design of this chapter to rescue the memory of a clever artist from undeserved oblivion, and restore him to that place in comic art which he once occupied, and which it seems to us he deserved to fill not only on account of his own merits, but by reason of being associated in illustrations of a different character with such men as his brother George, Robert Seymour, Thomas Rowlandson, John Leech, and other artists of genius and reputation.

Isaac Robert, or rather Robert Cruikshank (as he usually styled himself), was born in 1790. He had as a boy acquired the groundwork of his technical education as an artist and etcher under the direction of old Isaac his father; but we personally have met with little of his work prior to 1816, which is accounted for by the fact that he followed for a short time a sea life in the service of the East India Company, and after having thrown this up in favour of a calling more congenial to his tastes, he devoted himself for some years almost exclusively to miniature and portrait painting, by which he earned not only a fair livelihood, but a certain amount of fashionable patronage. Gradually, however (George tells us), he abandoned this occupation, and took almost exclusively to designing and etching He occasionally alternated his work with water-colour drawing, in which he is said to have greatly excelled. His works in this line are extremely rare, for Robert had neither the means nor the patience to wait for the tardy patronage to be commanded by a higher walk in art; there was a demand for caricatures and comic etching in his day, which afforded a present means of livelihood, and Robert's water colours were executed more by way of relaxation than in the