George Cruikshank's Life, Times and Art
In the conclusion to the biography of the caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank, Robert Patten narrates the second half of the artist's long career. It is an examination of Cruikshank's cooperations with some of the writers who are known as remakers of British fiction, particularly Harrison Ainsworth, Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. Patten also examines Cruikshank's illustrated periodicals, especially the Comic Almernack, which preceded Punch, and which contains an invaluable record of three decades of London life in the artist's hundreds of etchings. Beginning in 1847, Cruikshank became a leading advocate of Temperance, producing two dramatic series of prints, a gigantic oil painting, and many other forms of propaganda. Patten provides the fullest account ever of Cruikshank's many friendships and contextualises his art, showing how the subjects, mediums, treatments, publishers and audiences affected the artist's productions. He is especially good at elucidating Dickens' very public quarrel with Cruikshank, a quarrel that severed twenty years of friendship.
The artist's friendship with John Ruskin, who became for a time Cruikshank's patron and champion, is also illuminated by Patten. Cruikshank's later years were not successful either artistically or financially. He was bedevilled by economic crisis, inadequate commissions, and the upkeep of two households - one with his second wife and the other with his mistress and ten children. This volume of the biography foregrounds the changing image of the artist, as he refashioned himself and is refashioned by others to suit or to offend Victorian sensibilities. The intertwining of charity and art, Temperance and propaganda, children's imagination and adult's criticism, Scots heritage and English propriety, complicated and confused Cruikshank's declining years. Patten's engaging and energetic narrative sorts out the contradictory impulses within Cruikshank's life, times and art. This title is named as the Best Biography of the '90s by "The Guardian". Also available in this series is: "Volume I: 1792-1835"
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Patten has confronted a huge often baffling mass of Cruikshank's achievement head on ... meticulous ... a fine wide-ranging lesson in English history, politics, and publishing. ... Patten's particular achievement is to have looked at Cruikshank with fresh eyes, and to have liberated him from the captivity of collectors who have been nibbling at and burnishing him for decades, often with the artist's active compliance." The New York Times Book Review "I marvelled at the detail in Robert Patten's George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art: Vol I ... a full to bursting account of what it took to rival Gillray in one era and set Dickens going in another." William Feaver, The Observer "What the book really gives us is a clear exposition of the practicalities of the life and art of a genius ... In the Prologue we have what to this reader is the most evocative and lucid description of the processes of etching and engraving he has encountered." David Bruce, Antiquarian Book Monthly "Patten's book enthrals from the first page ... Let's hope that we shall not have to wait another 25 years to read Patten on this rich ardent and much derided phase of Cruikshank's career." John Carey, Sunday Times "Patten has apparently read every letter, examined every visual source, and thus is equipped to comment on virtually everything Cruikshank produced." Marc Baer, Print Quarterly "... telling, instructive, analytic ... sets forth Cruikshank's achievements over 60 years with deep-delving analysis and plentiful context ... helps us see why Cruikshank was an inspiration for a wide range of graphic artists and modern illustrators." Print Quarterly "... extremely detailed ... monumental ... great and perceptive detail throughout the text... Prof. Patten seems to have read every item of contemporary correspondence by, to, or relating to Cruikshank and furthermore he weaves that which is relevant so seamlessly into his narrative that the reader of this biography almost feels as if he were present as the events described unfold. Prof. Patten is so well qualified, perhaps uniquely so, to analyse and discuss the relationship between Dickens and Cruikshank ... a vast amount of supporting detail." Bookdealer "... big compliments to the second and last volume of the admirable George Cruikshank biography by Robert L. Patten... Cruikshank, maybe the most popular English artist in the nineteenth century, is finding at last this recognition he looked for in vain during all of his life." Ridiculosa 4 "... gigantic study ... long-meditated biography. The biographical narrative is central, but Patten ensures that the supplementary stories are told. Dr. Patten is, as always, a keen observer of the qualities of the artist's work but his critical assessment is integrated into the circumstances surrounding the production. The value of this giant study for later specialist investigators will be the firm delineation of the setting within which Cruikshank's pell-mell activities took place." Children's Books History Society Newsletter "... a triumph of the biographer's art - learned but lively, obsessed but always objective, and above all managing to convey the sheer raciness of the subject's long life. ... Patten's achievement is to bring out his centrality to the various worlds in which Cruikshank moved. Without Cruikshank, as Patten shows, English comic art - and 19th century English literature - would have been radically different entities." D.J. Taylor, The Guardian