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Richard Doyle (1824-1883)


Richard Doyle (1824-1883)

One of the most inventive illustrators of the Victorian period, Richard Doyle achieved a fine balance between observation and imagination, and so was able to work equally well as a Punch cartoonist and an illustrator of fairy subjects. His incisive draughtsmanship complemented the fine stippling of his watercolours.

Richard Doyle was born in London in September 1824, the second son of the Irish caricaturist, John Doyle (‘HB’). Educated at home, he showed an early talent for drawing, and was encouraged to observe and memorise the London scene and work the results into paintings. To counterbalance such demands he filled many sketchbook pages with ‘nonsense’ figures and, in 1840, illustrated his own diary. (It was published in 1885 as A Journal Kept By Richard Doyle in the Year 1840.) His first published book, providing a comic interpretation of the mediaeval-inspired Eglington Tournament, appeared in the same year to wide acclaim.

The combination of fantasy and observation that comprised the work of his childhood set Doyle in good stead for his employment by Punch in 1843. The decorations and initial letters that he first produced extended the playful images of his sketchbooks, while the cartoons that he began in March 1844 were all the better for his father’s training; the series ‘Manners and Customs of ye Englishe’ (1849) was instrumental in making him a household name.

Resigning from Punch in 1850 because of its anti- papism, Doyle devoted the rest of his career to illustrating books and painting in watercolour.

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