Sir John Tenniel (1820 -1914) was the son of a dancer and a fencing instructor and demonstrated his artistic talent at an early age. At sixteen he exhibited an oil painting at the Society of British Artists, an impressive accomplishment for an artist who was not only young but largely self taught.
When Tenniel was 20 he lost the sight of one eye in a fencing accident with his father, but the partial loss of his sight did not stop his artistic career and he went on the become one of the most celebrated and well-known figures in the late nineteenth century world of illustration. In his early career, his work as a cartoonist for Punch was his primary claim to fame.
In 1865, however, his illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made his a household name.
Between 1865 and 1868, a new edition appeared every year in order to keep up with demand. A sequel was prompted by the success of the first book, and Carroll immediately asked Tenniel to illustrate Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. Though he initially turned him down, Tenniel finally agreed to illustrate Carroll’s second book “at such time as he can find.” Through the Looking Glass was finally published, after numerous delays, in 1871.
The difficult relationship between Tenniel and Carroll did not improve during the creation of the second book. It was such that Tenniel never accepted another illustration project again, and simply continued working on cartoons at Punch.