Triumphant Success of Mr. Briggs by John Leech, c. 1860
"Triumphant Success of Mr. Briggs" by H. S. Smith from Mr. Briggs and His Doings, c. 1860.
This print humorously depicts the antics of Mr. Briggs, who is frightened by his catch after reeling it onto the shore. Artist John Leech pokes fun at his city ways, as Briggs jumps back from the fish, now armed with "teeth." The caption below reads: "Assisted by his little boy Walter he catches a Jack which to use Mr. Bs own words flies at him and barks like a Dog." Plate 7 of a 12-image set, it was originally part of a small portfolio entitled Mr. Briggs and His Doings. The character, originally devised for Punch, partakes in a popular leisure activity of the Victorian era. With growing industrialization across the country, fishing spots became important tourist destinations for city folk who wished for a sense of escape and were overcome by a sense of nostalgia for rural England.
John Leech was born on August 29, 1817 to an Irish father in London. He was encouraged at a young age to draw by sculptor John Flaxman and was later educated at the Charterhouse School. Although he studied medicine at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Leech ultimately returned to art. He was first published at the age of eighteen with his Etchings and Sketchings by A. Pen, Esq. By 1840, he began to work with George Cruikshank and other artists at Bentley's Miscellany, a magazine that published now-famous works by Wilkie Collins, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and others. In 1841, he joined Punch magazine, created the original illustrations for the 1843 edition of A Christmas Carol, and had a solo exhibition of his drawings supported by Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood painter John Everett Millais in 1862. He died two years later in October of 1864 at the age of forty-seven.
The work of Leech is well regarded for his acute observation of human behavior and ability to derive humor from everyday circumstances. Influential critic and a strong influence amongst the Pre-Raphaelites was John Ruskin, a fan of Leech, who wrote that his "...work contains the finest definition and natural history of the classes of our society..."
- Onastasia Youssef