Authors & Illustrators Born in February: John Tenniel • February 28th 1820

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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.

Portrait of John Tenniel

Portrait of John Tenniel

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.

Comic drawings and poems by John Tenniel

Comic drawings and poems by John Tenniel

In 1865, however, his illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland made his a household name.

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

A colored version of "The Jabberwocky" by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewi

A colored version of "The Jabberwocky" by John Tenniel for 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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.

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice through the Looking Glass'

Illustration by John Tenniel for 'Alice through the Looking Glass'

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.

Political cartoon for 'Punch' by John Tenniel

Political cartoon for 'Punch' by John Tenniel