The Early Years

For someone who was to eventually make a living out of drawing, Edward Linley Sambourne received relatively little artistic training. He received some early instructions from his father’s sister, Jane Barr, who was a talented amateur watercolourist. When he was 16 he spent three months at South Kensington School of Art, which he later said taught him nothing. In the late 1860s having decided being an artist was his calling, Sambourne briefly attended the evening life classes in the Langham Chambers, Portland Place. Here students drew from the draped model in one week, and the undraped the next. There was however no teacher.


Photo of Linley Sambourne (3rd on left) at Penn & Sons c.1861

In 1861 Sambourne was apprenticed to John Penn & Son, marine engineers, London. Initially he worked under the founder’s son, John Penn Jr but was promoted to the drawing office when his employer discovered his talent and aptitude for art. For a pastime, Sambourne drew caricatures and his chance to break from the monotony of draft drawing came in 1867, when a fellow employee Alfred German Reed showed one of Sambourne’s drawings to his father Thomas German Reed the theatrical manager who in turn showed it to his friend Mark Lemon, editor of Punch.


Sambourne's first published Punch drawing, 1867Lemon must have been suitably impressed as his first drawing appeared in Punch on 27 April 1867. This was a decorated initial letter ‘T’, showing the radical politician John Bright charging a medieval quintain.                               


From then on Sambourne was employed on a casual basis by Lemon to supply the decorated initial letters that stood at the head of articles and vignettes in Punch. Between 1867-1874 Sambourne contributed 350 initial letters. From 1874 Sambourne began to take on a greater number of larger drawings and was asked to join the staff on a regular basis. This was a major turning point in Sambourne’s life. As this regular salary coupled with a bequest from his Aunt Jane enabled him to marry Marion Herapath, the eldest daughter of a successful stockbroker.

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Mid-September to Mid-June

18 Stafford Terrace, W8 7BH