Linley Sambourne & Photography

With little formal training upon which to rely, his work for Punch was required to be both visually arresting and informative, spanning the gap between commercial graphics and black & white art. Added to this was the need to produce work to order and within a small time frame which conspired to make photography and the printed image a fundamental element of Sambourne’s technique.


Key Dates in Sambourne's Photographic Pursuit


Collecting Images

Sambourne's Photo Library c.1892Technical developments in photographic reproduction had by the 1870s created an increase

in volume of material available for sale. Sambourne began to collect studio photographs and

make cutting from magazines of subjects which might be use in his graphic work. Whilst it was common practise amongst his fine-art friends to collect sketches, prints and drawings as source materials. Sambourne’s requirements were more specific; the need to copy precisely elements of the subject such as ‘French women’, ‘Street Vendors’ or models in certain attitudes or positions. He also wrote to important public figures in the arts or politics to request their carte de visites bearing their likeness. In the highly methodical manner which characterised Sambourne’s approach to his work these

items were dated, catalogued and filed to provide a library of stock images (image library shown above c.1892). Classical studies could be obtained from the ‘academies’ of the early French studios, made available by the growing number of shops dealing in such subjects. These were ‘virtual’ models for Sambourne a draughtsman who had not found the means to stage his own compositions with living models yet.


But pre bought images could only go so far. Sambourne had a need for models to furnish his scenes with, which could usually not be met by the models available to fine artists due to time constraints coupled with the almost unlimited variety of subject matter he needed to depict in his cartoons.

First Photograph

Sambourne initially attempted to overcome his difficulties by instructing studios to photograph their models in compositions and poses designed by him in 1882 but this seems to not have been satisfactory. The next logical step was to for Sambourne to take his own images and on 19 August 1883 he proudly writes in his diary 'took my first photos'. By the mid 1880s he had purchased his own equipment and had fully embraced the medium realising that he now possessed the means to improve the accuracy of his drawings and most importantly save himself substantial time.  Though the discovery of this technique to improve his drawing presented him with the new unexpected problem of how to find models to sit for his photographs.

Discover more about Sambourne's Models...Wed 5 July 1905



Discover the role of the female artist's model in Sambourne's work and his relationship with these women.


Otley the Sambourne's groom, 10 Nov 1898







Sambourne was able to rely upon supply of friends, family, servants and local characters to model for him.  Find out who some of these characters were.



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Mid-September to Mid-June

18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH