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The Bottle
by George Cruikshank

Encyclopaedia Britannica.


The English artist, caricaturist and illustrator George Cruikshank was born September 27th, 1792 in London. He started his career with satirical political cartoons and later illustrated more than 850 topical and children's books. His most famous book illustrations were for the novelist Charles Dickens in Oliver Twist (1838). He also published a number of books himself. In the late 1840s Cruikshank, whose own father had died of alcoholism, became an enthusiastic propagandist for temperance. At that time he published a series of eight plates entitled 'The Bottle' (1847) which sold almost 100,000 copies, and its sequel, eight plates of 'The Drunkard's Children' (1848). Between 1860 and 1863 he painted a huge canvas illustrating 'The Worship of Bacchus'. Cruikshank died February 1st,1878 in London.

After the example of the etches of Cruikshank's 'The Bottle' several nice sets of magic lantern slides appeared. Perhaps the most beautiful set is shown on this page.



The Bottle. In eight plates by George Cruikshank. Published for the artist by David Bogue, 1847. Each of the prints bears in the lower foreground a signature legend "Designed and Etched by George Cruikshank."
The designs were reproduced from etchings by means of glyptography, a cheap form of graphic reproduction, enabling the publisher to sell the entire series of prints for one shilling.

Graphic Works of George Cruikshank by Richard A. Vogler, New York 1979.

Also read: 'The man who drew the Drunkard's Daughter. The life and art of George Cruikshank 1792-1878'. Hilary and Mary Evans, London 1978.


PLATE I. The Bottle Is Brought Out for the First Time: The Husband Induces His Wife "Just to Take a Drop".

Of particular interest in Cruikshank's plates and, to a less extent, in this series, is the symbolic use of setting and ornamentation to convey the theme of a 'home sweet home', like grandfather's clock, china figures on the mantel and a picture of a church in the background.



PLATE II. He Is Discharged from His Employment for Drunkenness: They Pawn Their Clothes to Supply the Bottle. 

The room looks disorganized now. The open cupboard shows that most of the clothes have been pawned. Even the hungry cat looks for food but finds the plate empty.




PLATE III. An Execution Sweeps Off the Greater Part of Their Furnuture: They Comfort Themselves with the Bottle.

The family huddles disconsolately at the extinguished fireplace. With keen regret, the wife regards for the last time their household possessions. The sad event occurring is represented emblematically by the replacement of the china figures on the mantelpiece by a mug.




PLATE IV. Unable to Obtain Employment, They Are Driven by Poverty into the Streets to Beg, and by This Means They Still Supply the Bottle.

The mother, father and older daughter stand at the side entrance of a liquor store, through which is seen the youngest daughter buying spirits. The son, barefoot and unkempt, begs from a respectably dressed woman while two healthy and prim children walk by.


From the 1830s religious and idealistic organisations like the Salvation Army and the Temperance movement used the effectiveness of the magic lantern as a powerful weapon against the evils of drink and other 'bad habits'.


PLATE V. Cold, Misery, and Want, Destroy Their Youngest Child: They Console Themselves with the Bottle.

The smallest child is dead and resting in the wooden casket near the rear wall. The wife, with a glass of gin in one hand, holds a rag to her tearful face. The husbands look of despair foreshadows his inevitable doom - insanity.



PLATE VI. Fearful Quarrels, and Brutal Violence, Are the Natural Consequences of the Frequent Use of the Bottle.

The children try to prevent their father from physically harming his terrified wife, who stands between him and the ominous-appearing bottle on the mantel. Their few remaining household possessions are overturned on the floor. A frightened neighbour looks in through the half-open door.




PLATE VII. The Husband, in a State of Furious Drunkenness, Kills His Wife with the instrument of All Their Misery.

A doctor takes the pulse of the murdered wife, one policeman interrogates the daughter while another officer seizes the hopelessly disturbed father.




PLATE VIII. The Bottle Has Done Its Work - It Has Destroyed the Infant and the Mother, It Has Trought the Son and the Daughter to Vice and to the Streets, and has Left the Father a Hopeless Maniac.

The two children, now rather gaudily and cheaply dressed, look at their father for the last time. The sprig of flowers in the mouth of the son suggests an impending course of dissipation. The cage is placed there to prevent prisoners from harming themselves.


Black and white version of the Bottle-series published by Charles M. Stebbins, optician. Slides measure 3 1/4 by 4 inches (10 x 8.2 cm).
For those who wished to paint their slides themselves but were not really an artist, Brodie & Middleton, 79 Long Acre, London, sold more than thirty sets of lantern slides with only the outlines of the pictures on glass, prepared for colouring. This rendered the work exceedingly easy to the amateur painter. One of those 'do-it-yourself' sets shows the dramatic story of The Bottle (1876). temperance cruikshank bottle alcohol do it youself
The same pictures from the sets above, now on a set of wooden frame slides.
temperance cruikshank bottlel family slide08 One of another set of magic lantern slides depicting the 'Evils of Alcohol'. 

This set of eight glass slides in a wooden frame is from the 'Temperance Views' collection. Each slide measures 18 x 10 cm (7" x 4") . Ca. 1880.


  More about The Bottle in Part 2
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