Color Plate Illustrators

ancestors of our hero by Leech

Many color plate books are significant more for their illustrations than for their texts or literary content. The illustrations are what make these books unique and define them as a genre. In many color plate books the text seems necessary only as an excuse for the illustrations. Even in the most successful marriages of text and image, the illustrations are always an equal partner. Therefore, the illustrators of color plate books are extremely important. While there were numerous illustrators who worked in aquatint and later in chromolithography, three of the most important are represented here. Thomas Rowlandson, a caricaturist with an interest in the comedy of everyday life, was one of the first important color plate illustrators. The brothers George and Robert Cruikshank came from an artistic family, and specialized in urban scences and also illustrated many non color plate books. John Leech, most well-known for his caricatures in the humore magazine Punch, brought a different vein of humor than many previous illustrators to color plate books.

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