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John Leech (1817-1864)

John Leech (1817-1864)

John Leech was a fluent and incisive draughtsman, who had great success as a cartoonist for Punch and as a literary illustrator, especially of John Surtees’ sporting subjects.

John Leech was born at 28 Bennett Street, off Stamford Street, Southwark, London on 29 August 1817. His father, a native of Ireland, was the assistant proprietor of the London Coffee House on Ludgate Hill. Educated at Charterhouse School, he began to study medicine at St Bartholomew’s Hospital at the age of fifteen, and worked for a while as an apprentice doctor. However, he was forced to abandon this medical career following his father’s bankruptcy.

Soon turning to his talent for drawing to develop a career, Leech produced a pamphlet – Etchings and Sketchings (1835) – in his preferred medium of lithography. In 1836, he gained further, direct experience of the handling of lithography when he visited Paris and fell under the influence of such French artists as Honoré Daumier and Paul Gavarni.

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