The Moors at Dusk, Fredrick J. Widgery

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Isaac Cruickshank (1756-1811)

Scottish painter and caricaturist, was born in Edinburgh. His sons Isaac Robert Cruikshank (17891856) and George Cruikshank also became artists, and the latter in particular achieved fame as an illustrator and caricaturist. Cruikshank is known for his social and political satire.

His parents were Elizabeth Davidson (born c.1725), daughter of a gardener, and Andrew Crookshanks (c.1725c.1783), a former customs inspector dispossessed for his role in the Jacobite uprising of 1745. He studied with a local artist, possible John Kay (17421826), and travelled with his master to London in 1783. He married Mary MacNaughton (17691853) in 1788.

He produced illustrations for books about the theatre, did the frontispiece for Witticisms and Jests of Dr Johnson (1791), and illustrated George Shaw's extensive General Zoology (180026). His watercolours were exhibited, but in order to make a living it was more lucrative to produce prints and caricatures. He was responsive to the marketplace but firm in his dislikes of Napoleon and political radicals. He and Gillray developed the figure of John Bull, the nationalistic representation of a solid British yeoman.

Cruikshank died of alcohol poisoning at the age of fifty-five as a result of a drinking contest and is buried near his home in London.

Isaac Cruikshank was a contemporary of James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson, and he was part of what has been called "the Golden Age of British Caricature." His work at its best, provides a vivid insight into the cultural and political preoccupations of the British during the decades at the turn of the nineteenth century.

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