John Jensen was born John Gibson in Sydney, Australia, on 8 August 1930, the son of the cartoonist Jack Gibson. He later adopted his stepfather's surname, and from 1946 to 1947 studied at the Julian Ashton Art School, Sydney. Jensen's first cartoon was published in the Sydney Sun in 1946 and he then began freelancing as a cartoonist for publications such as Australia National Journal and Pertinent.
In 1950 Jensen worked his passage to England as messboy on the SS Fred Christiansen, and was briefly an actors' dresser at London's Piccadilly Theatre, before becoming a full-time cartoonist. From 1951 to 1953 he drew pocket cartoons, caricatures and illustrations for the Birmingham Gazette, and in 1953 contributed his first cartoon to Punch. He then worked from 1953 to 1956 as staff cartoonist for a Scottish news and picture agency called Scotnews Ltd, also producing a daily "Laughlines" cartoon for the Glasgow Bulletin, and daily pocket cartoons signed "Gibby" for the Glasgow Evening Times.
In 1956 Jensen returned to London, and freelanced for a wide range of publications including Weekend, Lilliput, Daily Express, Daily Sketch, Sunday Dispatch, New Statesman, Books & Bookmen, High Life, and King. From March 1958 he spent a few months on the London Evening News, drawing a daily cartoon, and in 1961 became political cartoonist for the new Sunday Telegraph.
From 1972 he was a regular contributor to Punch, and in 1973 he began contributing theatre cartoons to the Tatler, in a series that lasted until 1977, and social cartoons to the Spectator, working for that magazine until 1976. In 1979 he left the Sunday Telegraph, and began contributing a weekly strip to Now! magazine, continuing until it closed in 1981. In 1989 he began contributing cartoons and illustrations to the Sunday Correspondent, until its closure in 1990.
Ambidextrous, Jensen is an admirer of Bateman, Ospovat, Peter Arno, Bert Thomas, Trier, Hiroshige, and Olaf Gulbransson, and prefers to watch his caricature subjects on video in addition to photographs. He works on paper and draws twice publication size using a dip pen, brush and Kandahar ink. For colour work he uses watercolour paper and Winsor & Newton watercolour and gouache paints.
A director of the Cartoon Art Trust since 1988 and its Chairman from 1992 to 1993, he was one of the founder members of the British Cartoonists' Association in 1966 and its Chairman from 1995 to 2000. Jensen won the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award ("Grinny") at the 1st Nottingham Cartoon Festival in 2002. He has also written occasional journalism, mostly on cartoonists and cartoons.
- Ian J. Scott (ed) British Cartoonists Year Book 1964 (London, 1963), p.79.
- CSCC Archive, undated notes by John Jensen.
- Mark Bryant Dictionary of Twentieth-Century British Cartoonists and Caricaturists (Ashgate, Aldershot, 2000), pp.126-7.
Approximately 2500 originals [JJ0001 - 2633]
4 folders of acetate neg page proofs for Now! magazine
Set of colour proofs for Daily Telegraph election poster 1979
33 unaccessioned artwork
Artwork for front and back of life-size cut-out of artist JJ1783, 1784
50s; 60; 70s; 80s; 90s