Page:English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the nineteenth century.djvu/33

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

paunches and diseases which rendered them a sight for gods and men. Reader, be assured that the fat men who figure in the graphic satires of the early part of the century were certainly not caricatured.

The three great Caricaturists of the Last Century.In connection with the subject of graphic satire, the names of the three great caricaturists of the last century—Gillray, Rowlandson, and Bunbury—are indispensable. The last, a gentleman of family, fortune, and position, and equerry to the Duke of York, was, in truth, rather an amateur than an artist. Rowlandson was an able draughtsman, and something more; but his style and his tastes are essentially coarse and sensual, and his women are the overblown beauties of the Drury Lane and Covent Garden of his day. George Moutard Woodward, whose productions he sometimes honoured by etching, and whose distinguishing characteristics are carelessness and often bad drawing, follows him at a respectful distance. The genius of James Gillray has won him the title of the "Prince of Caricaturists," a title he well earned and thoroughly deserved. The only one of the nineteenth century caricaturists who touches him occasionally in caricature, but distances him in everything else, is our George Cruikshank.

Commencing work when George the Third was still a young man, Gillray and Rowlandson necessarily infused into it some of the coarseness and vulgarity of their century. With Gillray, indeed, this coarseness and vulgarity may be said to be rather the exception than the rule, whereas the exact contrary holds good of his able and too often careless contemporary. As might have been expected, every one who excites their ridicule or contempt is treated and (in their letterpress descriptions) spoken of in the broadest manner. Bonaparte is mentioned by both artists (in allusion to his supposed sanguinary propensities) as "Boney, the carcase butcher;" Josephine is represented by Gillray as a coarse fat woman, with the sensual habits of a Drury Lane strumpet; Talleyrand, by right of his club foot and limping gait, is invariably dubbed "Hopping Talley." The influence of both artists is felt by those who immediately succeeded them. The coarseness, for instance, of Robert Cruikshank, when he displays any at all, which is seldom, is directly traceable to the influence