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Sir John Tenniel

Sir John Tenniel, by Unknown artist, 1844 -NPG 2002 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Sir John Tenniel

by Unknown artist
Pencil on cream laid paper, 1844
5 7/8 in. x 4 7/8 in. (150 mm x 124 mm) overall
NPG 2002

Inscriptionback to top

Signed with initials in pencil lower right-hand corner: ‘G.J.R.’ or ‘G.I.R.’ or ‘G.T.R.’;
and dated ‘1844’.

This portraitback to top

The drawing shows Tenniel aged 24 years, and is the earliest known portrait of the artist. He left the Royal Academy Schools soon after admittance in April 1842, ‘in utter disgust of there being no teaching’. [1] Not long after, around the date of this drawing, he was attending the Artists’ Society’s life classes in Clipstone Street and had begun work as an illustrator for the editor Samuel Carter Hall. [2]

The initials are ambiguous and the artist is unknown. [3] He may have been a fellow student at the Clipstone Street Artists’ Society. Tenniel did not wear a moustache until the 1860s, and in this drawing has not yet grown the characteristic bushy sidewhiskers. However the profile compares well with two semi-caricature self-portrait profiles that appeared in Punch in the 1850s (see ‘All known portraits, 1852’ and ‘1854’), and there is no reason to doubt the figure’s identity. [4] The drawing was purchased from C.H. Burgess of 61 Park Place, Clapham, for one pound, on 5 November 1923.

Carol Blackett-Ord

Footnotesback to top

1) Spielmann 1895c, p.201.
2) He was a contributor to Hall’s Book of British Ballads (1844); see Morris 2005, p.36.
3) See under ‘Inscription’. Perhaps a member of the Riviere family, of which there were several generations of Huguenot artist–draughtsmen established – like the Tenniels – in Marylebone; see ‘Riviere, William (1806–1876)’ in ODNB, 2004.
4) These self-caricatures repr. Morris 2005, p.52.

Physical descriptionback to top

Quarter-length, seated, profile to left.

Conservationback to top

Conserved, 1983.

Provenanceback to top

C.H. Burgess, from whom purchased, November 1923.

Reproductionsback to top

Repr. NPG, CIC, 2004.

View all known portraits for Sir John Tenniel