Pictures of Life and Character from the collection of Mr Punch (1887)

The English illustrator and caricaturist John Leech (1817 – 1864) is best known for his work for Punch, the humorous and satirical magazine founded in 1841 by Henry Mayhew, who served as editor together with Mark Lemon, and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Punch took its name from the Mr Punch of Punch and Judy, the rather violent comical puppet show. The magazine combined humour with politics, making fun of the monarchy and the leading politicians of the time. Due to financial difficulties, the magazine was later sold to Bradbury and Evans, who moved from printing to publishing and later became the publishers of such great Victorian names as Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. However, with the loss of Mayhew as editor, the magazine's radical content decreased, and it later came to represent the growing conservative middle class in Britain.

Leech's artistic gifts were noted and encouraged from an early age. After studying medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, he drifted towards the artistic profession with his illustrations first appearing in print at the age of eighteen. During his time at Punch, he produced around 3000 caricatures as well as other illustrations for the magazine.