More-over, it may be regarded as a fortunate circumstance that the three works, here reproduced with amazing fidelity in facsimile, represent happily the very chefs d'oeuvre of his wonderful productions; in their respective categories, preserving the best examples of his remarkable genius as an imaginative creator of vivid pictures, alike stirring and animated, and representing at one glance his vast dramatic powers, his mastery of the humorous side of life, and the intensity he was consistently able to infuse into terrible and tragic scenes.
It is noteworthy that the inimitable artist George Cruikshank but rarely pro-duced finished water-colour drawings; the bulk of his prolific and familiarly rec-ognised designs for book illustrations were mostly dainty pencil sketches, occa-sionally finished in pen and ink. It is a problem difficult to solve satisfactorily whether, beyond the three memorable instances of the works here reproduced in facsimile, there are in existence any other complete suites of original illustrations by George Cruikshank—that is to say, fully executed by his master hand as finished water-colour drawings.
Tinted sketches may be found in the prized possessions of Cruikshank collectors, and spirited studies for many of his favourite and most successful subjects have been cleverly touched in with watercolours; for instance, such as certain of his original drawings as designed for the illustrations of Harri-son Ainsworth's Tower of London, and the clever historical and picturesque series of Windsor Castle designs; these are, however, to be regarded as exceptional cases, for the bulk of these most successful and popular designs were carefully executed in pencil, or occasionally outlined with the pen, and highly finished with washes of warm sepia. It is worthy of recollection that Cruikshank was a most dexterous artist in this monochrome branch, his earlier artistic experiences having been al-most exclusively in the walk of aqua-tinted etchings; all his early book illustrations, his caricatures, and satirical plates—social or political—were uniformly etched by his hand in the most spirited fashion, after his ready sketches and rough studies, and when the outline etching was bitten in, Cruikshank elaborately worked out his colour suggestions, for light and shade, with a brush over the first-etched outline, in tones of sepia or Indian ink, for the guidance of the professional 'aquatinters'—the school of artists to whose trained skill was entrusted the task of completing these plates to produce the effect of highly finished washed drawings in mono-chrome.
By this, his youthful practice, George Cruikshank had acquired remarka-ble dexterity, his original pen-and-ink designs, and the outline etchings, after his earlier book illustrations, being worked up in monochrome to the dainty finish of delicate miniatures, in which art both his father Isaac and his brother Isaac Robert were first-class proficients, as he himself has recorded with pride in describing the special gifts and qualifications which distinguished the Cruikshank family.