Marie Duval: Laughter in the First Age of Leisure at Illustrative

Isabelle Émilie de Tessier (1847 – 1890?) was a London actress, cartoonist and illustrator who worked under the pseudonyms ‘Marie Duval’, ‘Noir’ and ‘S.A. The Princess Hesse Schwartzbourg’.

Marie Duval’s work first appeared in a variety of the cheap British penny papers and comics of the 1860s–1880s, or the First Great Age of Leisure, for urban working class people. An actress as well as a cartoonist, she lived and worked in a London environment of music halls and unlicensed theatres, sensational plays, serials, novels and comic journals. Her drawing style was theatrical, untutored and introduced many techniques that only became common in much later cartooning. Between March 1869 and July 1885, Duval drew hundreds of comic strip pages and vignettes for the magazine Judy or the London serio-comic journal and spin-off compilations, focusing on the humour, attitudes, urbanity and poverty of the types of people she knew. Her masterstroke was the development of the character Ally Sloper, a ne’er do well London ‘everyman’, resulting in dozens of strips that were collected into books. Under her influence, Sloper was to become the comedy icon of his age.

This is the first ever exhibition dedicated solely to Duval’s work as a nineteenthcentury pioneer of the art of comics. Much more of Duval’s work is also available to view online at The Marie Duval Archive:

The exhibition and Archive have been produced by the University of Chester, in partnership with Guildhall Library and with the support of the British Library and the London Library. It is made possible by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.