Edward Linley Sambourne began his working life as an apprentice draughtsman in a marine engineering works in Greenwich. His artistic career was to blossom when his cartoons came to the attention of the editor of the satirical magazine Punch. The cover shown above is a fine example of his style.

But, his talents did not end with cartoons. He developed a passion for photography - a rapidly growing art form in the second half of the nineteenth century. Very soon, one of his attic rooms was converted into a studio. A bathroom became his dark room, the walls covered with examples of his work.

Many images were of his family and also the household staff who were asked to pose as models. Below, you can see his coachman  dressed as the Emperor Nero while plucking a firescreen lyre - a pose that was later replicated as the basis of a political cartoon...

When commissioned to illustrate a version of Charles Kingsley's The Water Babies, Linley Sambourne's daughter, Maude, posed for the character of Ellie. His son, Roy, was posed as the chimney sweep, Tom.

Now and then, his wife, Marion, could be persuaded to model, though she was said to be far more concerned with the running of her house than to play out such frivolous fancies. And she often took the children for holidays at the seaside while her husband was far 'too busy with work' to think of leaving London - using his freedom in the house to bring in professional models who were happy to pose in the nude.

He was always careful to use non-descript backdrops and to hide his model's identities - many of whom he had lured from the Kensington Camera Club. But, in one somewhat provocative pose a girl is clearly to be seen sitting in Marion's own armchair, her face masked and, somewhat ironically, holding a puppet of Mr Punch.

Whether or not Marion saw that particular photograph, she was certainly aware of her husband's more racey activities - often referring to 'Lil's secrets' when writing in her diaries.

Edward Linley Sambourne, looking a little bit guilty and glum! (1844-1910)

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating. to hear the background . Thank you so much.