The phrenological illustrations of George Cruickshank (1792–1878): A satire on phrenology or human nature?
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For a brief period in1826, George Cruickshank (1798-1878), already an established artist in political satire and book illustration, turned to phrenology. He produced one initial print (Bumpology), followed by a collection of six plates of 33 engravings, linked by an explanatory preface, under the title, Phrenological Illustrations or an Artist's View of the Craniological System of Doctors Gall and Spurzheim. It was published during what is regarded as "the phrenological craze" in Britain. The illustrations were also produced at the height of Cruickshank's staggering creative productivity. In 1873, as phrenology was making its exit from scientific credibility into history, Cruickshank's phrenological illustrations were reissued by popular demand. Yet in contrast to his other works, these illustrations have received little attention in modern scholarship. The ways and the extent to which his caricatures constitute a contribution to the history of phrenology deserve to be studied. Here they are analyzed together with his descriptions in the prefaces to both the 1826 and 1873 editions. They reveal a surprising knowledge of phrenology in relation to Spurzheim and Gall. Furthermore, their uniquely innovative features will be identified in the context of other contemporary caricatures, and the fundamental significance of Cruickshank's achievement and its impact will be evaluated.
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