Hablot Knight (Phiz) Browne (1815 - 1882)

RA Collection: People and Organisations

English illustrator, etcher and painter. Best known as the illustrator of the novels of Charles Dickens, under the pen-name Phiz.

Browne had little formal training as an artist. He sporadically attended the St Martin’s Lane Academy life-class and was apprenticed to the line-engraver William Finden (1787-1852). In 1834 he cancelled his indenture and established an illustrators’ workshop with fellow apprentice Robert Young, producing etchings and watercolours in preference to the more laborious line-engravings. In the spring of 1836, he met Charles Dickens who was then looking for someone to illustrate The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club which was originally issued in monthly parts. Robert Seymour (1798-1836) provided the illustrations for the first two instalments before his suicide. Robert Buss (1804-1875) illustrated the third instalment, but his work was not liked by Dickens and the remaining instalments were illustrated by Browne. Browne initially signed himself ‘Nemo’ and then ‘Phiz’ (a depicter of physiognomies) to harmonize with Dickens’s ‘Boz’. He went on to illustrate most of Dickens’ novels.

Browne’s long career as an illustrator, including work for Charles Lever, William Ainsworth and Anthony Trollope, dwindled after he was passed over in favour of Marcus Stone (1840–1921) for Our Mutual Friend (1864–5). In 1876 Browne suffered an illness which left him partially paralysed. After recovering, he produced many woodcuts. In 1878 he was awarded an annuity by the Royal Academy. His health gradually worsened until he died on 8 July 1882.


Born: 10 July 1815

Died: 8 July 1882

Gender: Male

Works by Hablot Knight (Phiz) Browne in the RA Collection

40 results

Associated books

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Associated archives

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