John Tenniel

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Sir John Tenniel (28 February 1820 – 25 February 1914) was an English illustrator. He drew many topical cartoons and caricatures for Punch in the late 19th century, including his most famous political cartoon, dropping the pilot, but is best remembered today for his illustrations to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.


Early life

He was born in London and educated himself for his career, although he became a probationer, and then a student, of the Royal Academy. In 1836 he sent his first picture to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists, and in 1845 he contributed a 16-foot (4.9 m) cartoon, An Allegory of Justice, to a competition for designs for the mural decoration of the new Palace of Westminster. For this he received a £200 premium and a commission to paint a fresco in the Upper Waiting Hall (or Hall of Poets) in the House of Lords. Tenniel was blinded in one eye while fencing with his father in 1840.

In spite of his tendency towards high art, he was already known and appreciated as a humorist, and his early companionship with Charles Keene fostered and developed his talent for scholarly caricature.


At Christmas 1850 he was invited by Mark Lemon to fill the position of joint cartoonist (with John Leech) on Punch. He had been selected on the strength of his illustrations to Aesop's Fables. He contributed his first drawing in the initial letter appearing on p. 224, vol. xix. His first cartoon was Lord Jack the Giant Killer, which showed Lord John Russell assailing Cardinal Wiseman.

In 1857 people in India violently rebelled against British rule. The British public was outraged and took delight in bloody vengeance, including mass-killings of civilians. Punch was no different and contained illustrations such as Tenniel's "Justice" and "The British Lion's Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger".

Alice in Wonderland

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