When most folks think of Punch magazine, they usually think of artists such as John, Tenniel, Phil May, and Ernest Shepard. And with good cause. The publication employed some of the best damn cartoonists and illustrators ever to wield a dip pen in the United Kingdom. F.H. (Frederick Henry) Townsend was a Punch artist who does not receive a lot of acclaim today, but he was every bit as talented with the pen as his colleagues.
Born in London in 1868, Townsend began contributing to many British publications while still a student. As he advanced in his career, Townsend became in demand as book illustrator, known for his grasp of character and humor. That sense of character is beautifully captured in this Punch cartoon from December 26, 1906, ten years after Townsend’s first cartoon appeared in the magazine. The virtuosity with the pen is easy to see, as Townsend was able to layer texture upon texture; cross-hatching bleeding into hatching in an effortless fashion, all the while setting off the two sensitively rendered figures.
Townsend also works to create a depth in the space, playing not only with a strong two-point perspective with the toys, but layering them back in space, again incorporating that fluid sense of line in giving them weight. There is a slight awkwardness in the perspective, but it helps to frame the lower left corner, giving the figures room to breathe visually.
The cartoon is titled: ACCOMODATION FOR BOY AND BEAST, with the following caption:
Mother: “He certainly seems a bit sad – this horse that Santa Claus sent you. What do you think he wants?”
Son: “Do you know, Mummy, I fink he wants a train to shy at.”
For those of you not up on your British slang, "to shy at" means to be scared of something, or be made skittish by something. So in this case the horse would be made nervous by the train.
Frederick Townsend was appointed Punch magazine’s first Art Editor in 1905, and he worked for the publication until his death in 1920.