Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/47

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9
CARICATURE IS NOT FINE ART.

insignificance; and yet side by side with George Cruikshank, as a purely comic artist or caricaturist, Dore is beneath mediocrity.

Mr. Hamerton's observations of CaricatureArtists and art critics not unnaturally regard caricature with some disfavour. "Art," says Hamerton, "with a great social or political purpose, is seldom pure fine art; artistic aims are usually lost sight of in the anxiety to hit the social or political mark, and though the caricaturist may have great natural facility for art, it has not a fair chance of cultivation." Writing of Cruikshank's "etchings" (and I presume he refers to those which are marked with comic or satirical characteristics), he says: "They are full of keen satire and happy invention, and their moral purpose is always good; but all these qualities are compatible with a carelessness of art which is not to be tolerated in any one but a professional caricaturist."[1] Now all this is true, and moreover it is fairly and generously stated; on the other hand, Mr. Hamerton will probably admit that no artist is likely to succeed in graphic satire, unless he be a man of marked artistic power and invention.

While treating incidentally of the etchings of artists who have distinguished themselves as graphic satirists or designers, with etching itself as an art this work has no concern. For those who would be initiated into the mysteries of etching and dry point, negative and positive processes, soft grounds, mordants, or the like, the late Thomas Hood has left behind him a whimsical sketch of the process, which, imperfect as it is, will not only suffice for our purpose, but has the merit probably of being but little known:—

"Prepared by a hand that is skilful and nice,
 The fine point glides along like a skate on the ice,
 At the will of the gentle designer,
 Who, impelling the needle, just presses so much,
 That each line of her labour the copper may touch,
 As if done by a penny-a-liner.

* * * * *

Certain objects however may come in your sketch,
Which, designed by a hand unaccustomed to etch,
 With a luckless result may be branded;

  1. "Etching and Etchers," by Philip Gilbert Hamerton, third edition, p. 246.