Sunday, 20 March 2011

Alice in Wonderland: John Tenniel

I saw a program, The Beauty of Books, on the BBC the other day and it looked at illustration in nineteenth century England. One programme discussed two of my great loves:

  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) 1865
  • Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake (1947-1959)

At this the whole pack rose up...

Both of the authors did original illustrations for the books which are available in the British Library in London. I will do another blog post for Mervyn Peake as there is so much to say: he's such a wonderful writer and illustrator and his son (I believe) is publishing a series of his work with Peake's original illustrations. So another time for that. 

Twinkle twinkle little bat! How I wonder what your at!
Alice in Wonderland
So many illustrators have tackled this children's story: I can't remember the exact number it's one of the most illustrated books. I'm going to have to be absolutely honest and say that I've never seen any that are more than average when compared to JOHN TENNIEL's illustrations for the first edition. The are immediately recognizable.

The cat only grinned when it saw Alice
If you google John Tenniel there are a lot of tattoos on the back shoulder of the above illustration! That's a serious fan base... 
I think he was so effective because not only was he a very capable artist, but he had worked for Punch. For those that don't know, Punch was a British comic publication started in 1841. Tenniel worked for Punch as one of the main political cartoonists. In his illustrations you can see this with the emphasized features and personal jokes. 
They were standing under a tree
For interested collectors the original plates were found and 250 impressions made of each which you can but at the link below. As a collector of illustrations I'm definitely going to mark that down on my "Items of Desire" List. (Yes, I do have one!)

In the programme the presenter speculated how the ape, which can be seen above right, was a personal joke of Tenniel's. A joke surrounding all the discussion about Darwin in the period, alongside the extinction of the Dodo. 

Some links: 

Tenniel prints for sale :

If you know any more links or interesting info about Tenniel I'd love to hear!

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