IC drawing

Isaac Cruikshank was one of a number of noted late eighteenth-century caricaturists to supplement their income from engraving with sales of drawings and watercolours. However unlike his more celebrated contemporaries such as Thomas Rowlandson and James Gillray, who attempted to pursue careers in the comparatively elevated artistic fields of landscape and portraiture respectively, Cruikshank’s original works remained rooted in the comic humour of his caricatures. The only real difference between his output as a watercolourist and that as an engraver seems to have been his complete abandonment of political satire, with his paintings dealing solely with the humour derived from scenes of sociability, domestic life and the bawdier elements of romance.

His original watercolours seem to have been produced for a number of different reasons. Some were proofs for caricatures, songsheets and broadsides, which would be engraved by Cruikshank or someone else and published. Others appear to have been standalone pieces in their own right which were probably sold to collectors, with the printsellers Laurie & Whittle apparently enjoying a particularly favoured position as suppliers of Cruikshank originals during the 1790s.

This pencil sketch by Isaac Cruikshank is coming up for auction in the US in a few days time. It sadly appears to be rather faded but the principle characters are clearly discernible. The scene is set immediately outside a country inn, where a rustic on horseback is being offered a mug of ale by a buxom and slightly over-exposed young barmaid. The man is clearly delighted by the view he’s enjoying from on top of his horse and scratches his head and grins inanely.

The drawing is signed ‘IC’ in the lower right-hand corner and further evidence of Cruikshank’s hand can be found by comparing the figure of the rustic to that which appears in The Way to Stretchita late caricature by Cruikshank which was published by Thomas Tegg in May 1811. The faces of the two figures are almost identical and have the same long fringe and broad-brimmed hat. This indicates at the possibility of the drawing being a rare late composition by Cruikshank, which may indicate why it was never finished (Cruikshank died in April 1811).

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