Saturday, May 21, 2016

George Cruikshank

Wolverton was visited by several famous people during the mid 19th century, when it was new enough and important enough to attract the "stars" of the day. One of these was a man called George Cruikshank, little known today but in his own time a household name.

He was born a Londoner on 27 September 1792, one of the sons of Isaac Cruikshank who was well known as an illustrator in the 18th century. Naturally enough for those times he followed his father's trade, but once he had completed his apprenticeship he began to publish caricatures of his own. In his late 20s he then ventured into book illustration.

One of his favourite targets as a caricaturist was to portray King George IV in ridiculous situations. One one occasion he was offered £100 (two years' annual income for many) by the royal household not to "caricatures royal majesty in any immoral situation." It would be gratifying to report that Cruikshank was high-minded enough to turn down the money, but he took the bribe.

Cruikshank became the most popular illustrator of his day and collaborated with Charles Dickens on books, and in particular Oliver Twist.

His private life was, shall we say, colourful. He first married Mary Anne Walker, who died in 1849, and then Eliza Widgeon in 1851. After his death it was discovered that he had fathered 11 illegitimate children with a former servant, Adelaide Attree. She had been ensconced in a house nearby to his own.
George Cruikshank
George Cruikshank from NPG.jpg
George Cruikshank, 1836

When he was invited to appear at Wolverton in 1849 he was at the peak of his fame and his powers as an illustrator and in his later years the work declined in quality. nevertheless he created nearly 10,000 illustrations and prints in his lifetime - a remarkable achievement.

He died on 1 February 1878, aged 85.

No comments: