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Sir John Tenniel ( 1820 - 1914 )  Category ( Artists ) [suggest a correction]
 

Sir John TennielSir John Tenniel was an English illustrator, famous for his work in the publication Punch, but best known today for his illustrations in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Born in London and educated at the Royal Academy, Tenniel was poised to take his place in English society and the English art world. In 1836 he submitted his first picture to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists, and in 1845 he won a 200-pound prize and a commission to paint a fresco in the Hall of Poets in the House of Lords. While Tenniel favored high art, he quickly became known and appreciated as a humorist, specializing in scholarly caricature.

In 1840 he lost sight in one eye while fencing with his father, though this did not deter him to continue pursuing his career in the visual arts. In late 1850 he was invited to fill the position of joint cartoonist on Punch. To receive such an invitation proved he had truly arrived as a visual humorist. His first cartoon was "Lord Jack the Giant Killer," which showed Lord John Russell assailing Cardinal Wiseman.

In 1865 he illustrated the first edition of Alice in Wonderland. His illustrations secured him lasting fame and have taken their place among the most famous literary illustrations ever made. His illustrations for the "Alice" books were engraved onto blocks of wood and printed as woodcuts. The originals are in the collection of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. He is also the artist of one of the mosaics, "Leonardo da Vinci," which is located in the South Court of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Additionally, he was a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. Tenniel was knighted in 1893. Public exhibitions of his work were held in 1895 and 1900.

Tenniel's work is known for its accuracy of drawing, precision of touch, grace, and dignity of conception, and geniality of satire. He clearly raised the political cartoon into a classic composition, from which a sense of nobility is rarely absent. His work is considered by art historians to be always original, unforced, and fresh. He is also well regarded for his skills of observation, despite his loss of vision in one eye. He is recognized not only for his abilities but also of his service in infusing good humor and good taste into political life, something that was often decidedly lacking in British politics. It was due to this last quality that the knighthood was conferred to him in 1893.

Image: 1889 Self-portrait.


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