Harry Furniss (1854-1925) was a caricaturist and illustrator. Born in Wexford, Ireland he was the son of James Furniss, a civil engineer from Derbyshire, and his second wife Isabella Cornelia who was a miniature painter and the daughter of the Scottish author, publisher and politician Eneas Mackenzie (1777-1832).
Furniss was educated at the Wesleyan College, St Stephen's Green, Dublin; the Royal Hibernian School and the Hibernian Academy, where he rebelled against the tedium of drawing from classical sculpture far preferring to sketch from life. He always claimed to be self taught and whilst at school he edited the 'Schoolboys' Punch'. Shortly after leaving school he was able to earn his living through drawing with cartoons appearing in the Irish version of Punch 'Zozimus' in 1873. He moved to London that same year where he received commissions from the 'Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News' and the 'Illustrated London News'. As his confidence and abilities grew he received further commissions from a wide range of periodicals including 'The Graphic' and in October 1880 'Punch'. Furniss officially joined the 'Punch' staff in 1884 on a retainer which was a more flexible and profitable arrangement for him. He remained at 'Punch' for fourteen years drawing 2600 cartoons and illustrations, including caricatures of members of parliament which he drew on the spot and which are noted for their vitality and spontaneity. He gave his subjects recognisable identifiers; William Ewart Gladstone for example was given hilarious collars, setting a trend for later generations of caricaturists to copy.
On leaving 'Punch' Furniss began to publish his own journal 'Lika Joka' in 1894, this venture was successful but short-lived and was followed by 'New Budget' in 1895 and 'The Cartoon' in 1915. As well as drawing Furniss also found time to write and produce entertainments by limelight which he gave throughout Britain and also produced in Australia and America when travelling there. He also wrote and illustrated twenty nine books of his own as well as illustrating thirty four works of other authors, including 500 full page illustrations of the works of Charles Dickens. Furniss also wrote his memoirs 'Confessions of a Caricaturist'.
Furniss married Marian Rogers in 1877 and they had four children, one of them Dorothy becoming an artist and a collaborator with her father on some of his later book illustrations. In 1914 Furniss took part in a wartime propaganda film 'Peace and War: Pencillings by Harry Furniss'. He retired with his wife to Hastings where he died at the age of 70 in January 1925. The National Portrait Gallery purchased a number of his works in 1947 and an exhibition of his work was mounted in 1983.
This biographical description is largely based on John Jenson, 'Furniss, Henry [pseud. Lika Joko] (1854–1925)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2011 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33296, accessed 9 Feb 2017]