A Caricaturists hunting ground, – the artist known by whats his name? and paints payback

The Regent's Birthday Cruickshank

If you have been reading this blog (and I can only wonder at your forbearance and tenacity if you have and thank you for it) you will know that I include all sorts of artistic expression.  I see art everywhere.  One aspect that I have yet to mention on Echostains up until now is the art of the caricaturist. 

Loo in the kitchen Cruickshank

George Cruikshank’s art was the equivalent to a newspaper headline you would see today – usually scandalous!  People  complain about the intrusion of the paparazzi, but fame has always been a double-edged sword and the newspaper machine – a many-headed hydra.  George Cruickshank (b. London 1792 – 1878) was an illustrator and caricaturist with considerable talent and was one of the leading caricaturists of the 1790s.  His work employs a descriptive narrative similar to William Hogarth including prints, plates and illustrations. He also  illustrated some of the plates for some Charles Dickens books.

Fagin in his cell Cruickshank

His early work focused on caracturising English life for social publications, but he gained a lot of interest from caracturising the Royal family and the leading politicians of the time.  He even received a Royal bribe in 1720 not to lampoon the King George IV in any ‘immoral situation’ he may be in  (he must have made a tidy sum as  there were many.)

James Gillray an earlier caricaturist was one  of Cruikshank’s influences and  joined forces with him and Thomas Rowlandson (another Satirical artist) to develop a personification of England – John Bull in 1790

Cruikshank’s material came from social events, especially wars abroad and political parties, though he appears to be impartial to Tory Whigs and Radicals and satirised them all.  He illustrated ‘Sketches by Boz’ 1836, ‘The Mudfrog Papers’ 1837 – 1838 and ‘Oliver Twist’ 1838 all by Charles Dickens.

Snuffing out Boney by Cruickshank

He created controversy in 1871 with a letter to The Times where he claimed credit for a lot of the plot in Oliver Twist.  This spoiled his friendship with Dickens.  In the 1840s Cruikshank work became moore focused on book illustration.  He became obsessed with Temperance and was a staunch anti smoker illustrating work for the National Temperance Society.

Crinoline Parody Cruickshank

Cruikshank was a complicated man with a scandalous personal life   (upon his death, it was revealed that he had 11 illegitimate children with a mistress)  Yet he  still managed to produce nearly 10,000 prints, plates and illustrations, get buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.  His work can be seen in the Victoria and Albert and the British Museum.

George Cruikshank illustrations and information from here

Gary lawrence Homage to Anonymous

The Jerwood Visual Arts and Drawing projects UK has awarded First Prize in the Drawing Exhibition to Essex artist Gary Lawrence.  His large-scale drawing ‘Homage to Anonymous’ – a tribute to all anonymous artists, is drawn on the back of discarded posters using a ballpoint pen.  The work is dedicated to all artists who made work but went unrecognised and will be shown at JVA at Jerwood Space, London from 14 September – 30 October 2011. This what the artist says about this work-
 ‘Homage to Anonymous began in 2010 as a simple view of Pothea (the main town on the Greek island of Kalymnos) where I went on holiday. While working on it, I began thinking of other artist’s views of towns, especially El Greco’s View and Plan of Toledo (1608-14). While checking my El Greco book, I saw View of Candia (Litta di Candia) (1582) and View of Toledo (1582), both drawings which I initially thought to be by El Greco. (Candia, I found out, is Herak Lion, Capital of Crete, El Greco’s island of birth). All these historical references, plus my own holiday snapshots of Kalymnos, were combined over many months to finish the drawing in June 2011.’

I quite like the way that this work has grown from conception to its evolution.  Sometimes in art, the original idea with which you set out with is lost or changes to such an extent that you can’t remember what beginning actually was.  All you need is the spark, I think.  Without the spark or the germ of the idea you can’t really make a beginning.  Another observation I have made is the problem solving aspect of art.  You have the concept, then you try to execute your idea.  You realise that this isn’t working – it’s not quite what you wanted to say, so it’s back to the drawing board (so to speak).  Sometimes, just sometimes, the real journey, the finding of a way is actually more interesting than the finished piece in my own personal experience.  More about this exhibition here 

Jakub by Jan Mikulka

Here’s Czech artist 31 years old Jan Mikula whose oil painting of his lifelong friend  is so life-like it looks like a photograph.  The artist is said to have wanted to capture his lifelong friend JakubWagner ‘sensitive nature  at a short distance’. 

There’s no doubt about the artists skill here, and the finished painting is aesthetically pleasing to me – so therefore it’s a success so I shouldn’t be looking for more from this painting – yet I am and I can’t pinpoint what it could be.  I  prefer this portrait of a woman for her air of mystery and truth.  For me, it’s what you don’t see – what is hinted at which creates the interest.  Please take a look at the artist’s website here which is full of fantastic paintings and prepare to be enraptured!

Portrait of a woman by Jan Mikulka

With the advent of the first camera (first permanent photograph 1822)  artists were outraged and believed that photography would destroy art and the portrait artist’s livelihood.  But as you can see from this artist and other photo realists like Chuck Close this has been reversed – art is now imitating photography and blurring the boundaries.  Read more about this painting and the artist  here who won the Visitors Choice at the British Portrait Exhibition 16th June – 4 September 2011 with Jakub.  To see who won the  BP Portrait awards click here  

More PhotoRealists/Photorealists can be found at this blog

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8 Responses to “A Caricaturists hunting ground, – the artist known by whats his name? and paints payback”

  1. These characterizations are the forerunners of the political cartoon

    • Yes they sure are Carl – and it’s as if the ‘Spitting Images’ (a political satire TV programme that used to be around) have stepped right off the drawing board that the caricaturists has drawn. Some of them are rather cruel in their depiction – but so ridiculous you have to laugh 😀

  2. I’ve always liked those early caricatures. They were often far more outrageous than anyhing found in papers or on social network sites today. It was a world before political correctness – happy times!

    • Hhehe political correctness! I remember the world before that. Things have improved, but ignorance is still out there. However, sometimes I feel that we are almost frightened to express ourselves fully in case we use the wrong term or give offence (though none was intended)

  3. I am in total agreement with you about Mikulka portraits. I like those paintings that leave something for me to read into them. I would hang the “Portrait of a Woman” and not even study the realistic one long in a show or gallery. I think it must be my artist brain at work and the feelings that come from a work where the thought is but suggested. The woman portrait speaks to me of so much more where the boy only tells me it is that specific person, the friend of the artist.
    I really really really like “Homage to Anonymous”! Thank you for sharing that.
    In answer to your wondering about my visits, here. I enjoy the potpourri of art and what you write about the artists and the art. You are teaching me. I hope you never stop sharing. I love this blog!

    • Aw thanks Leslie! Glad you keep visiting, even though my posts now are more sporadic 🙂 I really can’t stop looking at ‘Portrait of a woman’, though you really have admire the artist’s skill in the Jakub one – and just as you say tells us a lot about the sitter. I love the kind of detailed drawing as seen in ‘Anonymous’, it reminds me of the Outsider art (which I really must do a post on) Thanks for your kind words – and your visits, they’re very much appreciated Leslie!

  4. Very interesting. My parents had an original of one of these artists, but I can’t for the life of me now remember which one! (It might have been Rowlandson, or someone quite like him in style). Something pretty bawdy. I’m not sure what happened to it.

    • Oooh lucky you! Love these cartoons – so full of detail and fun. Sorry I’ve not been around a lot at the moment, but I will try to do some more on here and visit other blogs more regularly 🙂

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