Edward Tennyson Reed (1860-1933) Preferring pencil to pen and ink, E T Reed developed into a superb draughtsman, using his confident line to express a rich imagination. Known equally for his political caricatures and his Punch series, ‘Prehistoric Peeps’, his range of subject and allusion was astonishingly wide.
E T Reed was born in Greenwich, London, on 27 March 1860, and educated at Harrow. On leaving school, in 1879, he travelled to Egypt and the Far East with his father, Sir Edward Reed, Chief Naval Architect and Liberal MP for Cardiff. Four years later, he took up drawing, receiving encouragement from Edward Burne- Jones and studying for 18 months at Frank Calderon’s Art School. However, he failed to get a place at the Royal Academy Schools, or to establish himself as a portrait painter, and so began work as a cartoonist and illustrator.
His first published work illustrated his father’s book, Japan: Its History, Religion and Traditions (1880).
Reed made his first contributions to Punch in June 1889, and was elected to the staff in the following year by its editor, F C Burnand. He soon became an established part of the periodical, introducing his ‘Prehistoric Peeps’ series into its Almanack in 1893, and following Harry Furniss as parliamentary caricaturist in 1894, a post he held till 1912. (As the son of an MP, he had long been familiar with the House of Commons.) Without obscuring his uncanny ability to capture individual likenesses, he restored to Punch the spirit of grotesque. Yet, despite this early association with one particular publication, he contributed some of his best political and legal cartoons elsewhere, including The Sketch (from 1893) and The Bystander (to which he moved in 1912). His work was exhibited at societies and dealers in London, including the Leicester Galleries and Fine Art Society, and also in the provinces. He was also a talented lecturer. Married with one son and one daughter, he died in London on 12 July 1933.
Further reading: E V Knox, rev Jane Newton, ‘Reed, Edward Tennyson (1860-1933)’, H C G Matthew and Brian Harrison (eds), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, vol 46, page 302; Shane Leslie (ed), Edward Tennyson Reed, 1860-1933, London: Heinemann, 1957