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Sir John Tenniel RI (1820-1914)

Sir John Tenniel, RI (1820-1914)

While best remembered as the illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, John Tenniel contributed greatly to the look of Punch during the later nineteenth century. Beautifully drawn and highly allusive, his political cartoons remain startling in presenting fantastic imagery with classical polish.

John Tenniel was born at 22 Gloucester Place, New Road, Bayswater, London, on 28 February 1820, the third son among six children of John Baptist Tenniel, a fencing and dancing master of Huguenot origins, and his wife, Eliza (née Foster). Brought up in Kensington, he was educated locally and then by his father, before studying at the Royal Academy Schools. Despite being partially blinded by his father in a fencing accident, in 1840, he continued in his ambition to be a history painter and joined the Clipstone Street Artists’ Society (later known as the Langham Sketching Club) to increase his chances of exposure. Together with Charles Keene, a sketching companion at the Clipstone Academy, he created ‘The Book of Beauty’ (circa 1846), an unpublished parody of popular anthologies of engravings and verse.

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