George Cruikshank lived from 1792 to 1878 and he was a caricaturist and book illustrator from England. He was the son of a political caricaturist so he began his training at an early age as he followed in his father’s footsteps. He then later branched out into book illustration. George Cruikshank first became recognized as one of the most important British graphic artists of the nineteenth century after he was recognized for his beautiful etchings in his introduction to German Popular Stories (1823). Cruikshank was best known for providing illustrations for Charles Dickens’s Sketches by Boz and Oliver Twist where he would capture both the “whimsy” and the “melodrama” of literary scenes.
Cruikshank had also produced the etchings for Albery von Chamisso’s Peter Schlemihl which was a story about a man who loses his shadow. He also illustrated a story called “The Bottle” in 1847 which charts the decline of a family through drinking. This inspired him to advocate abstinence and to use his artistic abilities to form messages about the evils of alcohol. He wrote and illustrated fairy tales in the years 1853-1864 to support social propaganda regarding alcohol. In “Hop o’ My Thumb and the Seven League Boots”, Hop’s father loses his money due to drinking, but he reforms himself and introduces prohibition when he becomes prime minister. In “Cinderella”, the father of the prince orders “fountains of wine” to be set up in the courtyards but Cinderella’s godmother persuades the king to celebrate the wedding without alcohol because of the quarrels and brutal fights that come from it.
Cruikshank’s push for social reform, as he exposed the evils of drinking, slavery, and cruelty to animals, began to affect his success as an artist. However, he was still able to remain active and illustrate an English edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852.
This image is one of George Cruikshank’s illustrations for the fairy tale “Cinderella”. Cruikshank’s images have a distinct style and are kept in black and white. In contrast, most fairytale illustrations today are colorful so they appeal more to children. Despite the lack of color in Cruikshank’s illustrations, his images contain a lot of detail which captures the viewer’s attention. He makes use of lines to create shading, depth, and a sense of movement. The piece itself is very dynamic as the characters are very detailed, such as their clothes and facial expressions.