John Tenniel was born in Kensington, London, on 28 February 1820, the youngest son of John Baptist Tenniel, of Huguenot lineage. He was a skilful artist from an early age, and later studied at the Royal Academy Schools, but became dissatisfied with the teaching there, and decided to follow a more independent line…in 1845 he was commissioned to paint a fresco for the House of Lords. He spent a short time in Munich to study the art of fresco in preparation for his mural painting in the House entitled, “Saint Cecilia.”
Realising that paintings in oils were unlikely to bring him either fame or fortune, he decided to turn his hand to book illustration…His skill at drawing animals and men in dramatic situations caught the eye of Mark Lemon, editor of Punch, a magazine then in the early stages of establishing itself as a popular Victorian weekly publication of satire and humour. Richard Doyle, one of the key artists associated with the magazine resigned in 1850 leaving a vacancy which, on the suggestion of Douglas Jerrold, was filled by Tenniel. Thus began a lifelong position at the Punch Office culminating in Tenniel becoming the foremost illustrator of its pages.