Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/196

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126
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

undoubtedly is—that he possesses genius—genius in its truest sense—strong, original, English genius. Look round the world of art, and ask, How many are there of whom anything like this can be said? Why, there are not half a dozen names that could bear being mentioned at all; and certainly there is not one, the pretensions of which will endure sifting, more securely and more triumphantly than that of George Cruikshank. In the first place, he is—what no living caricaturist but himself has the least pretensions to be, and what, indeed, scarcely one of their predecessors was—he is a thoroughbred artist.[1] He draws with the ease and freedom and fearlessness of a master; he understands the figure completely; and appears, so far as one can guess from the trifling sort of things he has done, to have a capital notion of the principles of grouping. Now these things are valuable in themselves, but they are doubly, trebly valuable as possessed by a person of real comic humour; and a total despiser of that Venerable Humbug which almost all the artists of our day seem, in one shape or other, to revere as the prime god of their idolatry. Nobody, that has the least of an eye for art, can doubt that Cruikshank, if he chose, might design as many annunciations, beatifications, apotheoses, metamorphoses, and so forth, as would cover York cathedral from end to end. It is still more impossible to doubt that he might be a famous portrait painter. Now, these are fine lines both of them, and yet it is precisely the chief merit of Cruikshank that he cuts them both; that he will have nothing to do with them; that he has chosen a walk of his own, and that he has made his own walk popular. Here lies genius; but let him do himself justice; let him persevere and rise in his own path, and then, ladies and gentlemen, then the day will come when his name will be a name indeed, not a name puffed and paraded in the newspapers, but a living, a substantial, perhaps even an illustrious, English name. Let him, in one word, proceed, and, as he proceeds, let him think of Hogarth."[2]

  1. This certainly was not true; both Gillray and Rowlandson were draughtsmen and artists of exceptionable ability.
  2. The article from which this is quoted is variously assigned to Professor Wilson