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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

Charles Samuel Keene (1823-1891), Illustrator and etcher

Illustrator and etcher; born 10 August 1823 at Hornsey, Middlesex. Educated in Ipswich; apprenticed to wood-engravers Whymper Bros 1842; provided drawings for illustrated periodicals and books (e.g., Robinson Crusoe, 1847); started drawing for Punch, anonymously from 1851 and as chief social cartoonist, John Leech’s successor, from 1864; much loved by colleagues who rallied round at onset of heart disease; died 4 January 1891, at home, 112 Hammersmith Road, London, leaving a fortune of £34,000 to general surprise.

Bohemian and unmarried, he occupied a series of dilapidated studios, ‘all through his life … very much at peace with dust and cobwebs’; [1] frugal and a heavy smoker, he played the guitar and – infamously – the bagpipes:

[Keene] dressed and did many things quite differently from other people, studying his own ideas and ideals of comfort and expenditure, regardless of convention. Rarely without his bagpipes and a pocket full of flints, he was never without a little old clay pipe in his mouth. Many of these were Cromwellian clays or those that had been buried during the Great Plague. Into these pipes he stuffed his dottles, little plugs of tobacco saturated with nicotine and then dried. These he always lighted with tinder and flint. [2]

Keene’s appearance in 1862:

He was then in the noon of life and full of vigour. He was tall, and walked with a stalwart step. He had a finely-formed head, covered with a crop of short jet-black curly hair. His face, if not classical, was striking. His eyebrows were thick and black, and his eyes were open, grey and luminous. [3]

In later life:

He was without exception the most delightful and quaintly humorous personality I have ever met. I can see him now, in his grotesque little jacket, which looked as though he had made it himself, very short about the hips and innocent of any attempt at fit, hanging in picturesque but distinctly untailorlike folds about his meagre person; his flannel shirt very limp about the collar and cuffs, and his ancient slippers, in which he would shuffle about the house and garden in company with the most constant of his attendants – his pipe. At meal-times he would keep the table in a perpetual bubbling of mirth. His own laugh, though it broke out but rarely, was a thing to wonder at: a silent, hilarious chuckle, which doubled him up in ecstasy at some joke or remembrance […] In spite, however, of his humour, there was something pathetic about Keene, with his poor old frayed coat and down-trodden slippers, his long lean neck, and cadaverous, strongly-marked face. [4]

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Layard 1892, p.16.
2) Emmanuel 1939, p.16.
3) Layard 1892, pp.123–4.
4) Frank Holl; quoted Reynolds 1912, pp.259–60. Keene’s quirky appearance and behaviour were recorded by very many contemporaries; see Layard 1892 for a good selection.

Referencesback to top

Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon 1992–
Meissner, G., ed., Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon: die bildenden Künstler aller Zeiten und Völker, ongoing, Munich and Leipzig, 1992–.

Benezit 2006
Benezit, E., Dictionary of Artists (based on 4th ed. of French version), 14 vols, Paris, 2006.

Broadbent & Houfe 1991
Broadbent, M., and S. Houfe, Charles Keene: ‘The Artists’ Artist’ 1823–1891, exh. cat., Christie’s, London, 1991.

Emmanuel 1939
Emmanuel, F.L., Charles Keene, Etcher, Draughtsman and Illustrator 1823–1891, London, 1939.

Engen 1985
Engen, R.K., Dictionary of Victorian Wood Engravers, Cambridge, 1985.

Furniss 1901
Furniss, H., Confessions of a Caricaturist, 2 vols, London, 1901.

Gallatin 1918
Gallatin, A.E., Portraits of Whistler: A Critical Study and an Iconography, London and New York, 1918.

Hacking 1998
Hacking, J.L., ‘Photography Personified: Art and Identity in British Photography 1857–1869’, unpublished doctoral thesis, Courtauld Institute, University of London, 1998.

Hacking 2000
Hacking, J., Princes of Victorian Bohemia: Photographs by David Wilkie Wynfield, exh. cat., NPG, London, 2000.

Houfe 1995
Houfe, S., The Work of Charles Samuel Keene, Aldershot, Hants, 1995.

Houfe 1996
Houfe, S., The Dictionary of 19th-Century British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1996 (rev. ed. of Houfe 1978).

Houfe 2004a
Houfe, S., ‘Keene, Charles Samuel (1823–1891)’, ODNB, Oxford, online ed., September 2004.

Hudson 1947
Hudson, D., Charles Keene, London, 1947.

Layard 1892
Layard, G.S., The Life and Letters of Charles Keene, London, 1892.

Lindsay 1934
Lindsay, L., Charles Keene: The Artists’ Artist, London, 1934.

Maas 1984
Maas, J., The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984.

MacDonald 1995
MacDonald, M.F., James McNeill Whistler: Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995.

McMaster 2008
McMaster, J., ‘That Mighty Art of Black-and-White: Linley Sambourne, Punch and the Royal Academy’, British Art Journal, Autumn 2008, pp.62–76.

McMaster 2009
McMaster, J., That Mighty Art of Black-and-White: Linley Sambourne, Punch and the Royal Academy, Edmonton, Canada, 2009.

Marks 1894
Marks, H.S., Pen & Pencil Sketches, 2 vols, London, 1894.

Marks 1896
Marks, J.G., Life and Letters of Frederick Walker, A.R.A., London and New York, 1896.

O’Donoghue 1908–22
O’Donoghue, F., Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, 5 vols, London, 1908–22 (and vol.6, H.M. Hake, Supplement and indexes, 1925).

Opyrchal 1983
Opyrchal, A., Harry Furniss 1854–1925: Confessions of a Caricaturist, exh. leaflet, NPG, London, 1983.

Ormond 1969
Ormond, L., George Du Maurier, London, 1969.

Pennell 1897
Pennell, J., The Work of Charles Keene, London, 1897.

Reynolds 1912
Reynolds, A.M., The Life and Work of Frank Holl, London, 1912.

Reynolds 1984
Reynolds, J., Birket Foster, London, 1984.

Rogers 1989
Rogers, M., Camera Portraits, exh. cat., NPG, London, 1989.

Rosenblum, Stevens & Dumas 2000
Rosenblum, R., M. Stevens and A. Dumas, 1900: Art at the Crossroads, exh. cat., Guggenheim Museum, New York and Royal Academy, London, 2000.

Spielmann 1895a
Spielmann, M.H., The History of Punch, London, 1895.

Whiteley 1948
Whiteley, D. Pepys, George Du Maurier, London, 1948.

Carol Blackett-Ord