Artist and Illustrator.
He was born in London on August 23, 1817, the son of a vintner and showed a remarkable aptitude for drawing from an early age.
After being educated at Charterhouse and then entering St. Bartholemew's Hospital to study medicine, Leech abandoned it for the career of an artist. At Charterhouse he had become a friend of W.M. Thackeray (q.v.) and at St. Bartholemew's he had made the acquaintance of Albert Smith and Percival Leigh, the writers, all of whom were to further him in his profession.
He produced his first book Etchings and Sketchings, caricatures of Londoners, in 1835 and followed this with a series of satirical and political lithographs. Leech was taught to draw on the wood by Orrin Smith and it was in this field of black and white work that he was to make his name.
His humour was like his talent, gentle, warm-hearted and positive, his world, the ups and downs of middle class life, the sports of the squirearchy, and the peccadilloes of army officers and undergraduates.
He became really established in 1840 when he joined the staff of Bentley's Miscellany, contributing over one hundred and forty etchings to the magazine. In 1841 he contributed his first block to the newly-established satirical journal Punch; Leech's art was ripe for this type of pictorial satire and within a few months he had made it his own, establishing a convention of social humour that was to last until the 1920s.
From 1843, Leech shared the cartoons with Tenniel, completing no less than seven hundred and twenty before 1864. But his strength was in the drawings of the hunting field and London fashion, epitomised in the characters of Tom Noddy and Mr. Briggs. Extravagantly praised by Ruskin, Leech's often careless but never crude drawings have survived in charm and humour to give us a refreshing glimpse of mid-Victorian society.
He died after a short illness in 1864.
(from The Dictionary of British Book Illustrators and Caricaturists, 1800-1914 by Simon Houfe)