Ernest Griset was born in Boulogne, France, on 24 August 1843, but came to England when he was a child. His parents may have emigrated during the 1848 revolution, and the subsequent seizure of power by Napoleon III, either because of their political activity or because their livelihood was destroyed. He studied art with the Belgian artist Louis Gallait. He spent the rest of his life in north London, near the Zoo, where he drew the animals all his life.
The frog with the toothache from Mrs Denison Among the squirrels. With illustrations by Ernest Grizet, engraved by Brothers Dalziel. London: George Routledge, 1867. Shelfmark: 12804.e.15. facing p. 23, 12.5x8cm © The British Library Board
Walter Crane records seeing him there. He drew beautiful studies of the Zoo animals and birds, many of which are now in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He also produced satirical illustrations and drawings of comic animals, insects and birds for books and periodicals. He was able to give almost human expressions even to insects, and there are amazing drawings of ant dramas in The purgatory of Peter the Cruel, in which a cruel boy is transformed in turn into a cockroach, an ant, a snail and a newt.
On 9 July 1877 a false report of his death appeared in The Times, which described him as 'an admirable and apparently inexhaustible draughtsman who possessed much satirical power and produced countless drawings in grotesque of animals and human savages, which wise collectors obtained for trivial sums at an untidy little shop near Leicester Square'. This shop was in Suffolk Street, and he had produced and sold sketches there from the mid 1860s. On 16th July, The Times admitted that he was not dead, or 'even ailing'.
He contributed to the magazine Fun (which was similar in style to Punch) for some years, and the editor, Tom Hood, wrote verses for his drawings in Griset's grotesques, published in 1867. Mark Lemon, the editor of Punch invited him to join the staff in 1867, but he left after disagreements in 1869.
He had a large family to support and produced many illustrations in periodicals for adults and children, including Good words for the Young, Once a Week, Little Folks, and later in The Boy's Own Paper and The Girl's Own Annual. He also illustrated some books on the American West, though it seems likely that he used the animals at the Zoo and his imagination. His work declined in quality as his age and output increased, and he painted prehistoric scenes for children's periodicals. When he died, he was almost forgotten, and was unlikely to have been in prosperous circumstances.
The favorite album of fun and fancy. With illustrations by Ernest Griset and others. London, New York: Cassell, Petter, Galpin, . Shelfmark: 12809.n.16. © The British Library Board
Lionel Lambourne, Ernest Griset. Fantasies of a Victorian illustrator. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977. Shelfmark: X415/5974. (Reprinted 1979).
Hesketh Hubbard, A forgotten illustrator. Ernest Griset, 1844-1907. The connoisseur, vol 115, 1945, p. 30-36.
Some books illustrated by Griset
James Greenwood, The Hatchet Throwers. London, 1866. Shelfmark: 12806.f.48.
Thomas Hood, Griset's Grotesques; or, jokes drawn on wood, with rhymes by Tom Hood. One hundred quaint designs by E. Griset. Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. London, 1867. Shelfmark: 11651.k.9.
Mary Andrews Denison, Among the Squirrels ... With illustrations by Ernest Griset, engraved by the Brothers Dalziel. London, New York: George Routledge & Sons, 1867. Shelfmark: 12804.e.15.
James Greenwood, The Purgatory of Peter the Cruel . London, G. Routledge, 1868 . Shelfmark: 12806.h.42.
Aesop's Fables. Illustrated by Ernest Griset. With text based chiefly upon Croxall, La Fontaine, and L'Estrange. Revised and re-written by J. B. Rundell. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, [1869.] Shelfmark: 12305.i.26. (Also later editions).
E. G.'s Funny Picture Books. 4 pt. London and Edinburgh, [1874.] Shelfmark: 12806.i.16.
The Favourite Album of Fun and Fancy. With illustrations by E. Griset and others. London: Cassell & Co., [1880.] Shelfmark: 12809.n.26.
Richard Irving Dodge,The Hunting Grounds of the Great West. A description of the plains, game and Indians of the Great North American desert ... London: Chatto & Windus, 1877. Shelfmark: 10412.ee.9
James Greenwood, The Bear King; a narrative confided to the Marines ... London, Edinburgh [printed], 1868 . Shelfmark: 12805.i.44.
Daniel Defoe, The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe. London: John Camden Hotten, 1869. Shelfmark: 12613.gg.9.
E. H. K. Hugessen, Ferdinand's Adventure, and other stories. London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1883 . Shelfmark: 12810.c.11.
E. H. K. Hugessen, The Mountain-Sprite's Kingdom, and other stories. London: G. Routledge & Sons, 1881 . Shelfmark: 12809.k.14.
The Funny Foxes and their feats at the fair. London: G. Routledge & Sons, [1887.] Shelfmark: 12811.f.50.
Fun's Comical Creatures. London: "Fun" Office, [1887.] Shelfmark: 12315.i.34.
William Manning, A Child's Dream of the Zoo . G. Routledge, 1889. Shelfmark: 12807.r.4.