oyster

This advertisement appeared on front page of the The Essex Standard, and Colchester and County Advertiser on Saturday 23rd November 1833. The “eminent artist” responsible for producing the drawing was George Cruikshank and contrary to the advertisement’s assertion, it was not produced for the express purpose of illustrating the merits of Joseph Halls Bare’s “superior” Colchester oysters. Cruikshank had in fact created this image three years earlier to be used it as one of the illustrations in William Clarke’s humorous miscellany Three Courses and a Dessert. A copy of the original woodblock engraving can be found in the British Museum online catalogue.

Cruikshank had maintained a link with the world of advertising since the earliest days of his career, producing small engravings to illustrate lottery puffs and other items during the 1810s and 20s. Most of the work was published without his signature, presumably to avoid cheapening the carefully cultivated Cruikshank brand by associating it with the grubby business of the jobbing engraver. However he was never to proud to turn down a paycheck and presumably insured that his name was not directly associated with the images he produced for explicitly commercial purposes. This was of course nonsense, as all his images were engraved for some commercial purpose or other, but there was a distinct difference in the perceived merits of an artist who engraved images for sale in their own right and one who dealt in advertisements, trade cards and other ephemera. One suspects that the use of the anonymous title “an eminent artist” in the advertisement above was a condition that Cruikshank himself may have insisted upon.

The advertisement also indicates the extent to which caricature itself had become commercially devalued by the early 1830s. Greater use of woodblock engraving and the introduction of lithography had made images cheaper to produce and more affordable. They also allowed for much more creative integration between pictures and printed letterpress text. The fact that this caricature appeared in an advertisement of a small provincial newspaper indicates the degree to which the market for such images had changed since the days of Gillray and Rowlandson.

Advertisements