28.02.1820 - 25.02.1914
Artist, illustrator, cartoonist
John Tenniel is an English artist, cartoonist; the first illustrator of Lewis Carroll’s books Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass, whose illustrations are considered canonical today.
He was born on February 28, 1820 in London. Since childhood, he was fond of painting and entered the Royal Academy, but soon left it without finishing.
From the age of sixteen, his works began to be exhibited in the Suffolk Street Gallery, after which Tenniel received several commissions, including painting frescoes in the House of Lords.
In December 1840, he became a regular cartoonist for Punch magazine.
Blind in one eye, Tenniel had a photographic memory, and he never used models or photographs when drawing. Whenever possible, he tried to meet with leading political figures in order to get a close look at the objects of his cartoons.
One day he was invited to 10 Downing Street so that he could study the face of William Gladstone. Tenniel later claimed that Gladstone disapproved of the way he was portrayed, and “did not do honor anymore.” Tenniel, being a principled opponent of parliamentary reform, arranged not the easiest times for Gladstone during the debate over the Reform Act of 1867.
The Conservative Party was grateful to Tenniel for his support, and the Marquess of Salisbury, the Prime Minister, decided to knight the artist. However, before that happened, the Conservatives lost power. William Gladstone, the leader of the Liberal Party, became the new Prime Minister, apparently forgave Tenniel and allowed him to receive the title of knight in 1868.
Along with his work at Punch, Tenniel created illustrations for books. In 1865 he created illustrations for “Alice in Wonderland”, in 1872 — for “Alice through the Looking Glass”. It is noteworthy that Tenniel rejected Carroll’s description of Alice and created his own character. Carroll and Tenniel worked closely together and argued quite often; in particular, it was Tenniel who suggested removing the chapter “The Bumblebee in a Wig” from Alice, and Carroll tried to insist that the White Knight from Through the Looking Glass should not have a mustache.
In 1901, Bernard Partridge replaced Tenniel as chief cartoonist.
Sir John Tenniel died on February 25, 1914 in London.
BACK (The Great Encyclopedia of Caricature), 2018