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Thomas Edward Donnison (1861-1907)

Thomas Edward Donnison (1861-active 1907)

Originally a solicitor, Donnison became a professional cartoonist and illustrator around the turn of the century. Donnison was born in Liverpool, Lancashire, in 1861, the elder son of the merchant, Thomas Donnison (1812-1880), and his wife Jane (née Oldaker) (1824-1889). By 1870, the family was living at 196 Grove Street, Liverpool. (Donnison has been described as Irish by more than one historian of cartoons, but there is no evidence for this.) Donnison was educated at Rugby School, leaving in 1878, and then studying law, while also taking lessons in art. The 1881 census records that he was unmarried, working as an articled clerk and living at 83 Bedford Road, Tranmere, Cheshire – across the Mersey from Liverpool.

In 1882, he exhibited a work at the Walker Art Gallery, probably in the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition, while in 1883 he was listed in
This Year's Art as living at Rock Ferry, which is close to Tranmere. Both his parents died in Rock Ferry during the 1880s, his mother in 1889 at 13 Queens Road, which was possibly his own address by that time. His brother, James Oldaker Donnison, left Rugby in 1880, and joined the shipping trade, becoming manager of a steamship line in 1891. Having been admitted as a solicitor in July 1884, Donnison practised for 15 years, then becoming a full-time cartoonist and illustrator. He contributed to a number of periodicals, including Boys' Own Paper (1895-1907), Fun, Judy, Longbow, Moonshine, Puck and To-Day. His 'pre-history' cartoons in the last have been compared to those of E T Reed and George Morrow.

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