Sir John Tenniel

By Teresa Panza

John Tenniel photograph by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co. -    Wellcome Library, London

John Tenniel photograph by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Co. - Wellcome Library, London

NOTE: The slideshow image for Sir John Tenniel is an illustration of Humpty Dumpty published in 1872. Source:Source: Wikimedia Commons

Victorian illustrator, graphic humorist, and political caricaturist John Tenniel was born February 28th 1820, the only son to a fencing teacher and dance instructor. This chiefly self-taught artist would go on to be one of the most iconic individuals of the Victorian period, and the first of his profession knighted by Queen Victoria.

After briefly studying at the Royal Academy, Tenniel at a young age decided to take an independent route in his education and left the prestigious institution for the Clipstone Street Art Society instead.

During a freak fencing accident in 1840, Tenniel was injured in one eye after the protective nub of his father’s foil fell off during a duel. He did not let this injury keep his creative force from flourishing, however, and in 1845 he was commissioned to paint a large mural for the House of Lords. The mural, "Saint Cecilia", can be viewed in the Hall of Poets to this day.

Tenniel then turned from high-art and embarked on the more lucrative path of book illustration. It was not long before his wonderful ability to draw dramatic action scenes as well as animals, caught the eye of the editor and chief of a then-brand new Punch magazine. In the winter of 1850, Mark Lemon invited Tenniel to join the magazine, where the prolific caricaturist would stay for over 50 years.

From  Cartoons by Sir John Tenniel, Selected from the Pages of "Punch" . By Sir John Tenniel -  "King Cotton Bound" Published in  Punch  in November of 1861 - Page 16

From Cartoons by Sir John Tenniel, Selected from the Pages of "Punch". By Sir John Tenniel - "King Cotton Bound" Published in Punch in November of 1861 - Page 16

During his long career with Punch, Tenniel created many memorable and controversial cartoons. He produced a piece entitled, “Lord Jack and the Giant Killer,” before he was a member of the full time staff. It depicted an attack on the Catholic Church which Richard Doyle, the lead cartoonist at Punch, found so offensive that he left the illustration team and was promptly replaced by Tenniel. John Tenniel went on to produce well over 2,000 cartoons that dealt with important topics of the day such as the Irish, the regime change within Germany, and the American Civil War.

If placed alongside that of John Leech - Tenniel's predecessor as head cartoonist at Punch - the elegance of Tenniel's work is clear. His eye for fine art added a much-appreciated air of sophisticated dignity to the cartoons, which resulted in Tenniel having a well-respected reputation not only as a caricaturist but as an artist.

Though Tenniel spent the better half of life working at Punch, it is his illustrations for Charles Dodgson - aka Lewis Carroll - that truly cemented his name in art history.

"You alarm me!" said the King -  Internet Archive Book Images

"You alarm me!" said the King - Internet Archive Book Images

In the earliest manifestations of the Alice books, Dodgson alone did the illustrations. He was quickly convinced by his peers, however, that if he wanted any publisher to take his book seriously, he would need to employ a professional artist. Familiar with Tenniel’s widely popular cartoons for Punch, Dodgson commissioned him to bring his fanciful characters to life.

The journey to completion was an arduous one for Tenniel and Dodgson alike. The two creative men were not accustomed to collaborations, and they frequently disagreed on how to depict the many scenes and characters. Additionally, the method in which Tenniel illustrated was time consuming and wrought with the potential for disaster. Tenniel was so picky, in fact, that the entire first printed edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderful was scrapped due to the poor print quality.

Though difficult, the result of their collaboration was an enormous success for both men. Tenniel brought the beloved characters of Lewis Carroll’s novel to life for the first time, and thanks to his whimsical-yet-classic style, Alice in Wonderland gained a popularity that carries on to this day.

Tenniel’s legacy was not only born from the pages of Punch and the Alice books, but in a groundbreaking honor he received in 1893. At the request of Queen Victoria, he was the first cartoonist and illustrator of his genre to be knighted for his outstanding creative contributions and his dedication to generating thought-provoking caricatures. This great recognition was not only a source of pride for Tenniel, but for his peers as well. It was one of the first instances in which a cartoonist was looked upon with such esteem by not just the creative community, but by the British Government.

Sir John Tenniel Related Books Available On Google Books and Project Gutenberg  

2008 - The Tenniel Illustrations for Carroll's Alice in Wonderland by John Tenniel. Published by The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. - 42 illustrations

1906 (circa) ( July 24, 2012, The Project Gutenberg EBook) - Mr Punch Afloat, edited by J. A. Hammerton, The Humours of Boating and Sailing. As pictured by Sir John Tenniel, George Du Maurier, John Leech, Charles Keene, Phil May, L. Raven-Hill, Linley Sambourne, G. D. Armour, A. S. Boyd, J. Bernard Partridge, and others. Published by The Educational Book Co. Ltd. - 192 pages

1901 - Cartoons by Sir John Tenniel, Selected from the Pages of "Punch". Sir John Tenniel Published by Punch - 177 pages, 175 Illustrations



1898 (circa) ( Jan 22, 2011, The Project Gutenberg EBook) - Mr. Punch's Railway Book Edited by Sir J.A. Hammerton. Published by The Educational Book Co. Ltd. Designed to provide in a series of volumes, each complete in itself, the cream of our national humour, contributed by the masters of comic draughtsmanship and the leading wits of the age to "Punch," from its beginning in 1841 to the present day. With 160 Illustrations by Phil May, George Du Maurier, Charles Keene, John Leech, Sir John Tenniel, E. T. Reed, L. Ravenhill, J. Bernard Partridge, Reginald Cleaver, and many other humorous artists. 192 pages, 160 illustrations (many by John Tenniel)

1897 - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: And Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. With ninety-two illustrations by John Tenniel. Published by The Macmillan Company - 277 pages, 92 illustrations

1897 - Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, with fifty illustrations by John Tenniel. Published by Henry Altemus Company - 209 pages, 50 illustrations

1895 - The History of "Punch", Volume 1, Marion Harry Spielmann with numberous illustrations. Published by Cassell and Company, Limited - 592 pages, many illustrations (some by John Tenniel)

1893 - English Caricaturists and Graphic Humourists of the Nineteenth Century. How they illustrated and interpreted their times. A contribution to the history of caricature from the time of the first Napoleon down to the death of John Leech in 1864. By Graham Everitt. Published in London by Swan Sonnenschein & Co. - 427 pages, John Tenniel is mentioned seventeen times in the book including in a chapter beginning at the bottom of page 394. There are no images from Tenniel in this book.

1892 - Mother Goose's Complete Melodies: A Collection of Rhymes, Tales, Jingles and Alphabets With illustrations by Mr. John Gilbert, R.A., John Tenniel, Harrison Weir, Walter Crane, W. McConnell, J.B. Zqegner and others. Published by M.A. Donohue & Company - 271 pages, many illustrations (some by John Tenniel)

1889 - The Nursery "Alice": Containing Twenty Coloured Enlargements from Tenniel's Illustrations to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" with Text Adapted to Nursery Readers by Lewis Carroll, illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. The cover designed and coloured by Emily Gertrude Thomson. Published by MacMillan and Co. - 56 pages, 20 Illustrations

1877 - Caricature and other comic art in all times and many lands with 203 illustrations. By James Parton. Published in New York by Harper & Brothers, Publishers. Published by Harper & Brothers - 340 pages, 203 illustrations. Tenniel is mentioned nine times in the book and two of his cartoons are featured in the section titled "Comic art in 'Punch'".

1867 - The Mirage of Life. With illustrations by Tenniel, engraved by Butterworth and Heath. Published by The Religious Tract Society. 225 pages, 27 illustrations

1866 - The Juvenile Verse and Picture Book: With Numerous Illustrations on Wood by Tenniel, Weigall, W.B. Scott, etc. etc.. Published by Frederick Marne & Co. - 103 pages, many illustrations

1865 - Dalziels' Illustrated Arabian Nights' Entertainments . The text revised and emendated throughout by Henry William Dulcken, Pu.D. Volume II. One hundred illustrations by J.E. Millais, R.A., A.B. Houghton, Thomas Dalziel, J.D. Watson, John Tenniel, G.J. Pinwell. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. Published by Ward and Lock. 822 pages, 100 illustrations (1 by John Tenniel)

1864 - English Sacred Poetry of the Olden Time, Collected and Arranged by The Rev. L. B. White., M.A. Rector of St. Mary Aldermary. Published by The Religious Tract Society - 190 pages, 32 illustrations (1 by John Tenniel)

1862 - Puck on Pegasus: by Henry Cholmondeley Pennell. Illustrated by Leech, Phiz, Portch and Tenniel wtih a frontispiece by George Cruikshank. Published by Routledge, Warne & Routledge - 155 pages, many illustrations

1861 - Lalla Rookh, an oriental romance by Thomas Moore. With sixty-nine illustrations from original drawings by John Tenniel, engraved on wood by the Brothers Dalziel; and five ornamental pages of persian design by T. Sulman, Jun. engraved on wood by H.N. Woods. Published by Longman, Green, Longman, & Roberts - 381 pages, 69 illustrations

1860 - The Gordian Knot: A Story of Good and of Evil, by Shirley Brooks. With illustrations by John Tenniel. Published by Richard Bentley - 376 pages, 22 illustrations

1858 - Æsop's Fables: A new version, chiefly from original sources. By Thomas James, M.A. Hon. canon of Peterborough. ... With more than one hundred illustrations, designed by John Tenniel. Published by John Murray - 148 pages, over 100 illustrations

1858 - The Poetical Works Of Edgar Allan Poe with original memoir. Illustrated by F.R. Pickersgill, R.R., John Tenniel, Birket Foster, Felix Darley, Jasper Cropsey, P. Duggan, Percival Skelton, and A.M. Madot. Published by J.S. Redfield. 54 illustrations ( 4 by John Tenniel)

1858 - The Home Affections: Pourtrayed by the Poets. Selected and edited by Charles Mackay. Illustrated with one hundred engravings, drawn by eminent artists, and engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. Published by George Routledge & Co. - 391 pages, 100 illustrations (2 by John Tenniel)

1857 - The Course of Time: A Poem by Robert Pollok, A.A. Illustrated Edition. Published by William Blackwood and Sons - 359 pages, 56 illustrations (10 by John Tenniel)

1857 - The Poets of the Nineteenth Century. Selected and edited by the Rev. Robert Aris Willmott, incumbent of Bearwood. Illustrated with one hundred engravings, drawn by eminent artists, and engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. Published by George Routledge & Co. - American poetry - 397 pages, 100 illustrations (4 by John Tenniel)

1857 - Dramatic Scenes. With other poems, now first printed. By Barry Cornwall. Illustrated. Published by Chapman and Hall. 404 pages, 57 illustrations (2 by John Tenniel)

1854 - Proverbial Philosophy by Martin Farquhar Tupper, D.C.L., F.R.S, & c. of Christchurch, Oxford. Illustrated. Published by Thomas Hatchard - 366 pages, 54 illustrations (11 by John Tenniel including title page)