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Encyclopedia > John Leech (caricaturist)
Portrait of John Leech.
Portrait of John Leech.

John Leech (August 29, 1817October 29, 1864) was an English caricaturist. August 29 is the 241st day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (242nd in leap years), with 124 days remaining. ... 1817 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... October 29 is the 302nd day of the year (303rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1864 (MDCCCLXIV) was a leap year starting on Friday (see link for calendar) of the Gregorian calendar or a leap year starting on Sunday of the 12-day-slower Julian calendar. ... Motto: (French for God and my right) Anthem: Multiple unofficial anthems Capital London Largest city London Official language(s) English (de facto) Government Constitutional monarchy  - Queen Queen Elizabeth II  - Prime Minister Tony Blair MP Unification    - by Athelstan AD 927  Area    - Total 130,395 km² (1st in UK)   50,346 sq... A caricaturist is an artist who specializes in drawing caricatures. ...


Early life

He was born in London. His father, a native of Ireland, was the landlord of the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill, "a man," on the testimony of those who knew him, "of fine culture, a profound Shakespearian, and a thorough gentleman." His mother was descended from the family of Richard Bentley. It was from his father that Leech inherited his skill with the pencil, which he began to use at a very early age. When he was only three, he was discovered by John Flaxman, who was visiting, seated on his mother's knee, drawing with much gravity. The sculptor admired his sketch, adding, "Do not let him be cramped with lessons in drawing; let his genius follow its own bent; he will astonish the world"—advice which was followed. A mail-coach, done when he was six years old, is already full of surprising vigour and variety in its galloping horses. Leech was educated at Charterhouse School, where William Makepeace Thackeray, his lifelong friend, was a fellow pupil, and at sixteen he began to study for the medical profession at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he won praise for the accuracy and beauty of his anatomical drawings. He was then placed under a Mr Whittle, an eccentric practitioner, the original of "Rawkins" in Albert Smith's Adventures of Mr Ledbury, and afterwards under Dr John Cockle; but gradually he drifted into the artistic profession. London (pronounced ) is the capital city of England and the United Kingdom. ... Ludgate Hill is a hill in the City of London, near the old Ludgate, a gate to the City that was taken down, with its attached jail, in 1780. ... Richard Bentley (January 27, 1662 – July 14, 1742) was an English theologian, Classics scholar and critic. ... John Flaxman (July 6, 1755 - December 7, 1826), was an English sculptor and draughtsman. ... Charterhouse School is an English public school, located in Godalming in the county of Surrey. ... William Makepeace Thackeray William Makepeace Thackeray (18 July 1811 – 24 December 1863) was an English novelist of the 19th century. ... The King Henry VIII Gate at Barts, which was constructed in 1702. ... Albert Richard Smith (May 24, 1816 - May 23, 1860), was an English author and entertainer. ...

Artistic career

He was eighteen when his first designs were published, a quarto of four pages, entitled Etchings and Sketchings by A. Pen, Esq., comic character studies from the London streets. Then he drew some political lithographs, did rough sketches for Bell's Life, produced a popular parody on Mulready's postal envelope, and, on the death of Seymour, applied unsuccessfully to illustrate the Pickwick Papers. In 1840 Leech began his contributions to the magazines with a series of etchings in Bentley's Miscellany, where George Cruikshank had published his plates to Jack Sheppard and Oliver Twist, and was illustrating Guy Fawkes in feebler fashion. Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface, as well as a method of manufacturing semiconductor and MEMS devices. ... The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, better known as The Pickwick Papers, is the first novel by Charles Dickens. ... 1840 is a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will take you to calendar). ... Bentleys Miscellany was a literary magazine started by Richard Bentley. ... George Cruikshank (September 27, 1792 – February 1, 1878) was an English artist and caricaturist, well-known for his satirical illustrations of contemporary figures and events. ... Oliver Twist is an 1838 novel by Charles Dickens. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

In company with the elder master Leech designed for the Ingoldsby Legends and Stanley Thorn, and until 1847 produced many independent series of etchings. These were not his best work; their technique is imperfect and we never feel that they express the artist's individuality, the Richard Savage plates, for instance, being strongly reminiscent of Cruikshank, and "The Dance at Stamford Hall" of Hablot Browne. In 1845 Leech illustrated St Giles and St James in Douglas William Jerrold's new Shilling Magazine, with plates more vigorous and accomplished than those in Bentley, but it is in subjects of a somewhat later date, and especially in those lightly etched and meant to be printed with colour, that we see the artist's best powers with the needle and acid. Among such of his designs are four charming plates to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (1844), the broadly humorous etchings in the Comic History of England (1847–1848), and the still finer illustrations to the Comic History of Rome (1852)—which last, particularly in its minor woodcuts, shows some exquisitely graceful touches, as witness the fair faces that rise from the surging water in "Cloelia and her Companions Escaping from the Etruscan Camp." Among the other etchings which deserve very special reference are those in Young Master Troublesome or Master Jacky's Holidays, and the frontispiece to Hints on Life, or How to Rise in Society (1845)—a series of minute subjects linked gracefully together by coils of smoke, illustrating the various ranks and conditions of men, one of them—the doctor by his patient's bedside—almost equalling in vivacity and precision the best of Cruikshank's similar scenes. Then in the 1850s come the numerous etchings of sporting scenes, contributed, together with woodcuts, to the Handley Cross novels. The Ingoldsby Legends are a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry supposedly by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington manor, actually a pen-name of Richard Harris Barham. ... 1847 was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... This article needs cleanup. ... Hablot Knight Browne (June 11, 1815 - July 8, 1882), English artist, famous as Phiz, the illustrator of the best-known books by Charles Dickens, Charles Lever and Harrison Ainsworth in their original editions. ... 1845 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Douglas William Jerrold (January 3, 1803 - June 8, 1857), was an English dramatist and writer. ... Dickens redirects here. ... A Christmas Carol (full title: A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas) is Charles Dickens little Christmas Book first published on December 17, 1843 and illustrated by John Leech. ... 1844 was a leap year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... 1848 is a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1852 was a leap year starting on Thursday (see link for calendar). ... // Events and Trends Technology Production of steel revolutionised by invention of the Bessemer process Benjamin Silliman fractionates petroleum by distillation for the first time First transatlantic telegraph cable laid First safety elevator installed by Elisha Otis Science Charles Darwin publishes The Origin of Species, putting forward the theory of evolution...

Lithographic work

Turning to Leech's lithographic work, we have, in 1841, the Portraits of the Children of the Mobility, an important series dealing with the humorous and pathetic aspects of London street Arabs, which were afterwards so often and so effectively to employ the artist's pencil. Amid all the squalor which they depict, they are full of individual beauties in the delicate or touching expression of a face, in the graceful turn of a limb. The book is scarce in its original form, but in 1875 two reproductions of the outline sketches for the designs were published—a lithographic issue of the whole series, and a finer photographic transcript of six of the subjects, which is more valuable than even the finished illustrations of 1841, in which the added light and shade is frequently spotty and ineffective, arid the lining itself has not the freedom which we find in some of Leech's other lithographs, notably in the Fly Leaves, published at the Punch office, and in the inimitable subject of the nuptial couch of the Caudles, which also appeared, in woodcut form, as a political cartoon, with Mrs Caudle, personated by Brougham, disturbing by untimely loquacity the slumbers of the lord chancellor, whose haggard cheek rests on the woolsack for pillow. Lithography is a method for printing on a smooth surface, as well as a method of manufacturing semiconductor and MEMS devices. ... 1841 is a common year starting on Friday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1875 (MDCCCLXXV) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Punch was a British weekly magazine of humour and satire published from 1841 to 1992 and from 1996 to 2002. ...

Wood engraving

 Leech's Cartoon no.1: Substance and Shadow, published in Punch, 1843, the first use of the word cartoon to refer to a satirical drawing
Leech's Cartoon no.1: Substance and Shadow, published in Punch, 1843, the first use of the word cartoon to refer to a satirical drawing

It was in work for the wood-engravers that Leech was most prolific and individual. Among the earlier of such designs are the illustrations to the Comic English and Latin Grammars (1840), to Written Caricatures (1841), to Hood's Comic Annual, (1842), and to Albert Smith's Wassail Bowl (1843), subjects mainly of a small vignette size, transcribed with the best skill of such woodcutters as Orrin Smith, and not, like the larger and later Punch illustrations, cut at speed by several engravers working at once on the subdivided block. It was in 1841 that Leech's connection with Punch began, a connexion which subsisted until his death, and resulted in the production of the best-known and most admirable of his designs. His first contribution appeared in the issue of August 7, a full-page illustration—entitled "Foreign Affairs" of character studies from the neighbourhood of Leicester Square. His cartoons deal at first mainly with social subjects, and are rough and imperfect in execution, but gradually their method gains in power and their subjects become more distinctly political, and by 1849 the artist is strong enough to produce the splendidly humorous national personification which appears in "Disraeli Measuring the British Lion." About 1845 we have the first of that long series of half-page and quarter-page pictures of life and manners, executed with a hand as gentle as it was skilful, containing, as Ruskin has said, "admittedly the finest definition and natural history of the classes of our society, the kindest and subtlest analysis of its foibles, the tenderest flattery of its pretty and well-bred ways," which has yet appeared. In addition to his work for the weekly issue of Punch, Leech contributed largely to the Punch almanacks and pocket-books, to Once a Week from 1859 until 1862, to the Illustrated London News, where some of his largest and best sporting scenes appeared, and to innumerable novels and miscellaneous volumes besides, of which it is only necessary to specify A Little Tour in Ireland (1859), which is noticeable as showing the artist's treatment of pure landscape, though it also contains some of his daintiest figurepieces, like that of the wind-blown girl, standing on the summit of a pedestal, with the swifts darting around her and the breadth of sea beyond. Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1392x1103, 539 KB) The first cartoon Substanse and Shadow(1843) by John Leech . ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (1392x1103, 539 KB) The first cartoon Substanse and Shadow(1843) by John Leech . ... A cartoon is any of several forms of art, with varied meanings that evolved from one to another. ... 1842 was a common year starting on Saturday (see link for calendar). ... 1843 was a common year starting on Sunday (see link for calendar). ... August 7 is the 219th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (220th in leap years), with 146 days remaining. ... Leicester Square at night in 2005: a view toward the northeast corner. ... 1849 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (December 21, 1804 - April 24, British Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and author. ... Upper: Steel-plate engraving of Ruskin as a young man, made circa 1845, scanned from print made circa 1895. ... 1859 (MDCCCLIX) is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar (or a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar). ... 1862 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ...

Public exhibition

In 1862 Leech appealed to the public with a very successful exhibition of some of the most remarkable of his Punch drawings. These were enlarged by a mechanical process, and coloured in oils by the artist himself, with the assistance and under the direction of his friend John Everett Millais. Millais had earlier painted a portrait of a child reading Leech's comic book Mr Briggs' Sporting Tour. John Everett Millais (June 8, 1829–August 13, 1896) was a British painter and illustrator who was one of founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. ...


Leech was a rapid and indefatigable worker. Dean Hole claims to have produce three finished drawings on the wood, designed, traced, and rectified, "without much effort as it seemed, between breakfast and dinner". The best technical qualities of Leech's art, his precision and vivacity in the use of the line, are seen most clearly in the first sketches for his woodcuts, and in the more finished drawings made on tracing-paper from these first outlines, before the chiaroscuro was added and the designs were transcribed by the engraver. Turning to the mental qualities of his art, it would be a mistaken criticism which ranked him as a comic draughtsman. Like Hogarth he was a true humorist, a student of human life, though he observed humanity mainly in its whimsical aspects, It has been suggested that this article or section be merged with Tenebrism. ... William Hogarth, self-portrait, 1745 William Hogarth (November 10, 1697 – October 26, 1764) was a major English painter, engraver, pictorial satirist, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited as a pioneer in western sequential art. ...

"Hitting all he saw with shafts
With gentle satire, kin to charity, That harmed nut."

The earnestness and gravity of moral purpose which is so constant a note in the work of Hogarth is indeed far less characteristic of Leech, but there are touches of pathos and of tragedy in such of the Punch designs as the "Poor Man's Friend" (1845), and "General Février turned Traitor" (1855), and in "The Queen of the Arena" in the first volume of Once a Week, which are sufficient to prove that more solemn powers, for which his daily work afforded no scope, lay dormant in their artist. The purity and manliness of Leech's own character are impressed on his art. We find in it little of the exaggeration and grotesqueness, and none of the fierce political enthusiasm, of which the designs of James Gillray are so full. Compared with that of his great contemporary George Cruikshank, his work is restricted both in compass of subject and in artistic dexterity. Look up Pathos in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... 1855 was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... James Gillray James Gillray, sometimes spelled Gilray (born August 13, 1757 in Chelsea; died June 1, 1815) was a British caricaturist. ...


Biographies of Leech have been written by

See also Detail of a nude by Frith William Powell Frith (January 19, 1819 - November 9, 1909), was an English painter specialising in portraits and Victorian era narratives, who was elected to the Royal Academy in 1852. ...

  • John Leech's Pictures of Life and Character, by Thackeray
  • Quarterly Review (December 1854)
  • letter by John Ruskin, Arrows of the Chace, vol. i. p. 161
  • Un Humoriste Anglais, by Ernest Chesneau, Gazette des Beaux Arts (1875)
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

The name Thackeray can mean:- The poet William Makepeace Thackeray The Indian politician Bal Thackeray. ... Quarterly Review was a review journal started by John Murray, the celebrated London publisher, in March 1809 (though it bore a title page date of February), in rivalry with the Edinburgh Review, which had been seven years in possession of the field, and was exerting, as he judged, an evil... Upper: Steel-plate engraving of Ruskin as a young man, made circa 1845, scanned from print made circa 1895. ... Encyclopædia Britannica, the 11th edition The Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–1911) is perhaps the most famous edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. ... The public domain comprises the body of all creative works and other knowledge—writing, artwork, music, science, inventions, and others—in which no person or organization has any proprietary interest. ...

External links

Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
John Leech
  • The John Leech 'Punch' magazine sketch archives



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