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Charles Keene (1823-1891)

Charles Samuel Keene (1823-1891)

Becoming associated, from the 1860s, with his Punch cartoons of urban street life, Charles Keene developed a great reputation as a draughtsman, and was revered by many of his contemporaries.

Charles Keene was born in Hornsey, Middlesex, on 10 August 1823, and spent his childhood in London and Ipswich, where he was educated at the local grammar school. He spent some time in the offices of both his late solicitor father, at Furnivall’s Inn, London, and the architect, William Pilkington of Scotland Yard. However, finding neither congenial, he entered a five-year apprenticeship with the wood-engravers, the Whymper Brothers. In addition, he was ‘a compulsive attender’ of the Clipstone Academy, from 1848 into the 1860s.

Keene illustrated books from 1847 and contributed to The Illustrated London News, but it was only in December 1851, when he made his first, unsigned drawing for Punch, that he found the ideal outlet for his talents. It was a connection that lasted until the day of his death and, from the time he began to use his monogram in 1854, it brought him great celebrity.

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