Who is Sir John Tenniel whose birthday Google has celebrated?
He also drew many caricatures for Punch magazine at the end of the 19th century.
He first trained alone, before entering the Royal Academy. In 1836, he submitted his first drawing to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists. In 1845, he submitted a box entitled An Allegory of Justice to a competition for the wall decorations of the new Palace of Westminster. For this, he received a purse of 200 pounds and an order for a fresco in the House of Lords.
In the 1850s, at Christmas, Mark Lemon offered him a place as associate designer for Punch magazine, together with John Leech (another famous illustrator, Richard Doyle, had refused the post). In 1874 Tenniel was elected an honorary member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors.
When Leech died, Tenniel continued his work at Punch alone, contributing to all the issues of the magazine, with the sole exception of short periods of infirmity or vacation, and making around 2300 cartoons and an incalculable number of minor drawings, distinguishing himself for the artistic quality of his works and the humorous acuteness of his satire. In general, his contributions to Punch were in tune with the magazine’s Whig political line, although the tones of his works were generally more moderate than the texts they accompanied.
For his merits as an artist, at the request of William Ewart Gladstone, in 1893 he was awarded the position of Knight. When he retired in January 1901, he was given a farewell banquet with illustrious guests such as Arthur James Balfour (then head of the House of Commons) and other members of British high society.
Tenniel’s works are renowned for the accuracy of the drawing, the precision of the stroke, the elegance of the composition, and the brilliance of the satire; he is generally credited with having elevated the political-themed satirical cartoon to the dignity of true art. If Cornelius and Overbeck are among the main inspirers of his style, his style was absolutely original.
Exhibitions of Tenniel’s works were held in 1895 and 1900. Tenniel also has the mosaic portrait of Leonardo da Vinci found in the Victoria and Albert Museum.