Frederick Henry Linton Jehne Townsend, ARE (1868-1920)
A cartoonist, illustrator and printmaker, F H Townsend is best remembered for his involvement with Punch, both as an artist and its first Art Editor.
F H Townsend was born in London on 26 February 1868. Between 1885 and 1889, he studied at the South London Technical Art School, Kennington Park Road (run by the City & Guilds of London Institute). Fellow students included Arthur Rackham, Leonard Raven-Hill, Charles Ricketts, Reginald Savage and Charles Shannon. In 1887, he contributed to a short-lived magazine entitled Sunlight and illustrated Wilde’s early stories, ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ and ‘The Canterville Ghost’, for their original appearances in the Court & Society Review.
Townsend then began working regularly for the Illustrated London News (1889-99) and drew theatre sketches for the Lady’s Pictorial. He contributed to many further periodicals and also illustrated books, the first of which was S J Duncan’s A Social Departure (1890).
An expert fencer, he illustrated C F Clay’s English translation of Baron de Bazancourt’s classic, Secrets de l’Epée (1900). His illustrative work shows the influence of Edwin Austin Abbey.
Perhaps most significantly, Townsend began to draw for Punch in 1896, joined the Table in 1905, and became its first ever Art Editor in 1905. (On his death in 1920, he was succeeded in this position by his brother-in-law, Frank Reynolds.) The bulk of his cartoons were of social subjects, but he also illustrated the feature, ‘Parliamentary Sketches’, and deputised for Raven-Hill in drawing the whole-page political cartoonist.
Townsend was a member of the Chelsea Arts Club (since its foundation in 1891) and the Arts Club (from 1908). Then, in 1915, he was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (RE), having studied etching under Sir Frank Short about two years earlier. He exhibited at the RE and other leading London venues.
During the First World War, Townsend served in the Special Constabulary.
He died suddenly on a golf course in Hampstead, London, on 11 December 1920. In the following year, the Fine Art Society held a memorial exhibition and Cassell published the volume, ‘Punch’ Drawings by F H Townsend.
Further reading: Percy V Bradshaw, The Art of the Illustrator 2: F H Townsend, London: Press Art School (1918)