Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/242

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168
ENGLISH CARICATURISTS.

moment that the new style was adopted, the artist's services were brought into requisition for the purposes of book illustration; and from the time work of this kind began to come in, he relaxed and afterwards discontinued the practice of caricature. It is as an etcher and designer of book illustrations we shall henceforth have to consider him, and in this character one of his famous illustrations to "Greenwich Hospital" will be found superior to the whole series of Rowlandson's careless overdrawn designs to the three "Tours" of Syntax put together.

This alteration in the man's style after he took to book illustration is known only to those familiar with his early caricatures. If you take, for instance, the etching of St. Swithin's Chapel, of the "Sketch Book," or The Gin Shop in the "Scraps and Sketches"[1] (we are speaking of course of the early coloured impressions), and show them together with any two of the caricatures we have named to a person who had never before seen either, we will venture to say that he would pronounce them without hesitation to be executed by entirely different hands.

George's ideas of Female Beauty.After Lockhart's statement that George Cruikshank was capable of designing an Annunciation, a Beatification, or an Apotheosis, we must accept his assertion that he "understood the [human] figure completely "with a certain amount of reservation. Perhaps he did; and if he did, he certainly played some extraordinary tricks with the "figure" aforesaid. The truth is, that we forget the artist's weaknesses, many and glaring as they are, in the lustre of his unexampled genius. The Times, in an otherwise laudatory article which it published after his death, remarked that "there was not a single beautiful face or figure probably in the whole range of Cruikshank's work." Now, although this is not entirely true, there is at least so much of truth, in it that we may admit that the cases in which he has produced a pretty face or figure are very few and far between, and even those cases seem rather to have been the result of accident than of design.

  1. The "Sketch Book" and "Scraps and Sketches" have recently been republished; but the impressions from the sadly worn plates give but little idea of the exquisite originals.