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Tweedle Dee and Tweedle DumThe images of Alice in Wonderland came from the pen nib of Tenniel and have flooded our collective memories with fanciful characters that are unforgetable . The characters he created are the basis for all the other versions of Carroll’s classic since it’s debut in 1865 including Disney’s classic movie.. He is truly one of the greatest cartoonist and illustrator that ever lived.

John Tenniel (1820-1914)

The famous Victorian artist and Punch cartoonist, John Tenniel, is remembered today as the illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The books have been illustrated countless times but for many people the original drawings by Tenniel have never been surpassed. His images epitomise the characters in the books. Tenniel successfully captured the author’s intended vision.

John Tenniel was born in Kensington, London, on 28 February 1820, the youngest son of John Baptist Tenniel, of Huguenot lineage. He was a skilful artist from an early age, and later studied at the Royal Academy Schools, but became dissatisfied with the teaching there, and decided to follow a more independent line. He left for the Clipstone Street Art Society where he met his lifelong friend, Charles Keene. They jointly produced an early work entitled “Book of Beauty,” a series of humorous sketches which were exhibited and subsequently sold. At the age of sixteen, he exhibited some of his early works in oils at the Suffolk Street Galleries in London. For a period of five years from the age of seventeen, he was a contributor to exhibitions at the Royal Academy. At the age of twenty he was accidentally blinded in one eye as a result of a fencing match with his father. He submitted a cartoon entitled “The Spirit of Justice” for a competition aimed at attracting artists to decorate the new Houses of Parliament, but his work was not accepted. However, in 1845 he was commissioned to paint a fresco for the House of Lords. He spent a short time in Munich to study the art of fresco in preparation for his mural painting in the House titled, “Saint Cecilia.”

Realising that paintings in oils were unlikely to bring him either fame or fortune, he decided to turn his hand to book illustration. His earliest recorded illustrations appeared in Hall’s Book of British Ballads dated 1842. He was sole illustrator for La Motte-Fouqué’sUndine in 1845. His series of black and white drawings for an edition of Aesop’s Fables were published by John Murray in 1848. His skill at drawing animals and men in dramatic situations caught the eye of Mark Lemon, editor of Punch, a magazine then in the early stages of establishing itself as a popular Victorian weekly specialising in satire and humour. Richard Doyle, one of the key artists associated with the magazine resigned in 1850 leaving a vacancy which, on the suggestion of Douglas Jerrold, was filled by Tenniel. Thus began a lifelong position at the Punch Office culminating in Tenniel becoming the foremost illustrator of its pages. Tenniel married in 1852, but sadly his wife died two years later; there were no children. He professed to have no political opinions but followed the leanings of his employers. He also declared that he never used models when drawing the figure. Everything he observed became a source for illustration, invariably drawing from memory.