A Theatrical Development
In its theatricality, caricature-style book illustration approximates the tableau style popular in the nineteenth century. This chapter examines book illustrations by George Cruikshank, Phiz, Richard Doyle, John Leech, and Robert Cruikshank that, like tableaux, capture a dramatic moment in works by Dickens, Ainsworth, and Thackeray. With lighting, props, clever casting, and detail-laden backdrops, the caricaturists staged scenes ranging from the sensational to the sentimental, from the deeply psychological to the broadly comic. “Caricature: A Theatrical Development” adds two Victorian author-illustrators to this list of recognized caricaturists. Better known as an author than an illustrator, William Makepeace Thackeray designed theatrical pictorial capital letters, vignettes, tailpieces, and full-page engravings for his best-known Vanity Fair (1848) and cast his heroine Becky Sharp in various stage roles. To dramatize Alice’s transformations, Lewis Carroll recalled popular caricature techniques in his illustrations for the first version of Alice in Wonderland (1865) entitled Alice’s Adventures Underground(1864) at a time when realistic illustration held sway. This chapter also examines artistic limitations and scandals (e.g. Robert Seymour’s suicide, Cruikshank’s claim of authoring Dickens’s works) that led to a dismissal or devaluation of the caricaturists and a privileging of the Academy trained artists who entered the field of illustration in the 1850s.
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