He who knows how to appreciate colour relationships, the influence of one colour on another, their contrasts and dissonances, is promised an infinitely diverse imagery.
- Sonia Delaunay
Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
- Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.
 

 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Alice in Wonderland Illustrations

Posted by Charley Parker at 1:10 pm

My old pal, Doc Ozone, has graced us with a nice set of images of Rackham's Alice Illustrations., Sir John Tenniel, Author Rackham
“…and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

I used the quote above, from the first paragraph of Lewis Carroll’s classic and newly popular story, as a preface to the “Dead Tree Edition” of my webcomic, ArgonZark! when it was published in 1997. I felt it was a perfect summation of the appeal of comics and graphic stories, as well as illustrated books in general.

Though hardly a graphic story in its initial form, the original appeal of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (which every proper Victorian child knows is the actual name of the book, emphasis on “adventures”) was deeply intertwined with the beautiful pen and ink drawings of Sir John Tenniel that graced the first printed editions (top two images above), along with the follow-up Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. (The story was first illustrated in manuscript form by Charles Dodson, AKA Lewis Carroll, himself.)

Those two stories area often mashed together in film, theater and comics adaptations, mixing characters and episodes from the separate stories with abandon. Granted, they are not the most linear or coherent of storylines (grin), but there is a general confusion even about which characters are from which story, and, though I haven’t seen it yet, it looks like Tim Butron’s new action/adventure version (emphasis on “action”) is taking the same license.

Part of the confusion arises from the fact that subsequent editions often presented both stories in one volume and publishers assigned their own illustrators to illustrate both at the same time.

There is a long list of illustrators who have taken on illustrating the two stories over time, but few have risen to the challenge of stepping into Tenniel’s large shoes (even after eating their slice of “Eat Me” currant-labeled cake).

Even noted illustrators of the stature and ability of Jesse Wilcox Smith have bowed to Tenniel as the master of Alice illustrations by basically reinterpreting his illustrations in their own. Others, like Maria Kirk, Harry Rountree, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Charles Robinson, A.E. Jackson and Willy Pogany created their own visual interpretation, sometimes beautifully illustrated, but none have the weight and force to shine without being lost in Tenniel’s glare.

Mervyn Peake did a set of excellent illustrations that were so idiosyncratic as to stand on their own, but lack the charm and enduring appeal of Tenniel’s pen and ink Wonderland.

Only one other illustrator, to my mind, created a series of illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that can hold their place at the tea party with Tenniel — the great British illustrator Author Rackham (above, bottom two images).

Rackham has given us a different Wonderland, still simultaneously dark and bright, stylized and grounded in reality, and rendered with undeniable visual charm.

My old pal Doc Ozone has graced us with a nice set of images of Rackham’s Alice Illustrations.

There is a reasonably good collection of Tenniel’s Alice illustrations on alice-in-wonderland.net and another here.

There are inexpensive editions of the Alice books with Tenniel’s beautiful illustrations in which the quality of the images is quite high: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (Modern Library Classics) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (Barnes & Noble Classics Trade Paper).

Unfortunately, the print versions of Rackham’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are out of print, though you can still find them used. (Amazon is muddying the waters now by listing Kindle eBooks in the same searches with real books in an attempt to push the Kindle, so it looks at first glance like there are more editions than exist physically.)

There are several sources for other Alice Illustrators.

In addition to the wonderfully extensive list of Illustrators of Alice, with links, on LewisCarroll.org, there is a terrific resource on Alice Illustrators, A-Z by Lauren Harman, in which she posts example images by each illustrator.

Also, there is a good series of llustrations of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Artists other then Tenniel, with scans from has own collection by Dave Neal, and a sampling of various Alice illustrators on From Smiler, with Love.

The lists are long, and there are a number of great illustrators on them, plus you could spend considerable time looking through the work of John Tenniel and Arthur Rackham alone, so I’ll issue my customary Time Sink Warning, and point out that you could be down this particular rabbit hole longer than you intend.

Posted in: IllustrationPen & Ink   |   9 Comments »

9 comments for Alice in Wonderland Illustrations »

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  1. Comment by Phillip
    Friday, March 5, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

    My favourite book. Great choice of illustrations.

  2. Comment by Kelly
    Friday, March 5, 2010 @ 9:27 pm

    Hey there, I came across your website today and I am quite impressed. I love your post today about Alice in Wonderland. I am a huge fan myself and after seeing the film was looking at a way to post it in my own blog. Thank you for the inspiration.

  3. Comment by Raining Acorns
    Saturday, March 6, 2010 @ 10:23 am

    As a child, I treasured my Alice books (now, sadly, lost to time), which I now see were illustrated by Tenniel. I’m glad to be reminded of those books and illustrations today, and to learn about the other efforts at illustrating the books.

  4. Comment by Linda
    Saturday, March 6, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

    A great group of illustrations which I have followed for many years. The original copy is now on view in the British Library (amazing to see) with access to all pages and audio option. Worth the trip.

  5. Comment by Illustration Blog
    Sunday, March 7, 2010 @ 7:12 am

    Great post! Very informative. I didnt know the story about the two stories being mashed up. Thanks for putting together all the links and content.

    PS: Enjoy the Tim Burton movie when you get around it to :)

  6. Comment by Anna
    Wednesday, March 17, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    Thank you so much for this article and the magnificent compilation of illustrations and links! A great hommage to one of the most amazing and beautiful books of all time.

  7. Comment by Curious Art
    Saturday, April 17, 2010 @ 10:07 pm

    Ah, I’m an Alice fanatic from way back!

    If you’re interested in all things Alice, it’s worth checking out the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Lots of fascinating stuff there.
    http://www.lewiscarroll.org/

  8. Comment by Charley Parker
    Monday, April 19, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

    Wonderful. Thanks, Leah!

  9. Comment by lisa-marie
    Saturday, October 27, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

    Iam doing a gcse art course work on alice in wonderland and so far i quite like

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