- Illustrating Alice in England 1965-1939 – Does Tenniel’s 'Alice' Reign Supreme?
- Illustrating Alice in England, 1940 to today – Contemporary Alice Finds a Mature Audience.
- Illustrating Alice in Russia – Literary Nonsense and the “Creative Misreading of the Text”
- Illustrating Alice in France – "Surrealism Before Surrealism"
- Illustrating Alice In America And Canada – "Byzantine But Mostly Constructive"
- Illustrating Alice in Italy
- Illustrating Alice in Poland
- Illustrating Alice in Brazil, China & Japan
“Illustrating Alice: An International Selection of Illustrated Editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass”. Now that’s one hell of a title, and this is one hell of a book; but more than just a book, it’s an anthology of Alice’s all-time greatest hits, jam-packed with a stellar cast of ‘Alice’ all-stars. For all you ‘Alice’ tragics, this read is guaranteed to entertain and surprise you. For the collectors among you, “Illustrating Alice” is your go-to resource; guaranteed to keep your credit card in the red…you have been warned!
“Illustrating Alice” is peppered with more than 600 reproductions of illustrations by hundreds of artists from around the world, and includes commentary by Carrollian luminaries, renowned collectors, famous artists and ‘Alice’ enthusiasts, introduced in an eloquent Foreward by Marina Vaizey. An art critic of fifty years who grew up with ‘Alice’, Marina says that Wonderland had been “helpful preparation for the vagaries of the international art world, with many a Red Queen and Mad Hatter”.
At the risk of repeating the obvious, allow me to share Marina Vaizey’s sentiment regarding the international endurance of ‘Alice’:
The two [Carroll’s] books were instantly successful, perhaps the most successful so-called children’s books of all time, migrating with ease through the looking-glass of childhood to the adult world. The Alices have, perhaps improbably considering their nonsense language and plethora of made-up words – and creatures – been translated into over one hundred different languages… It is a testimony to the international endurance of Alice’s experiences that hundreds of editions worldwide continue to pay tribute by renewing the ways in which we see Alice and her wonderlands. A looking-glass world.
For my readers who may be time-poor and prefer to digest my articles in bite-sized portions, please avail yourself of the Table of Contents I have provided for your convenience above. For the rest of you brave, unperturbed ‘Alice’ enthusiasts, pull up a comfy chair and follow me down the proverbial rabbit hole of this monumental publication.
An International Selection of Illustrated Alice
The “Alice in Different Countries” section accounts for almost half of ‘Illustrating Alice’. It flows in the alphabetical order of geographic locations from Brazil, China, England, France, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia to the USA and Canada. Each article has been penned by a renowned ‘Alice’ academic, researcher or collector, who convey their idiosyncratic passions for Carroll’s timeless masterpiece.
It’s been revealing to read the personal accounts and strongly opinionated statements of praise and sometimes harsh criticism from some of these contributors. I also found it insightful and enormously educational to see how the prevailing illustration styles of these countries are closely associated with their geopolitics and art and social history:
Can the scores, even hundreds of illustrators of the Alices be defined in any way by national characteristics? There are suggestions that Russian folk art influences Russian artists, fairy and folk tales Eastern Europeans, fashion and fashion shoots the French, where Alice can appear rather alarmingly grown up. Alice is certainly adaptable and many an artist has insisted she grow up, which makes her depiction rather unsettling: an adult woman in children’s clothes. There can be an erotic, even subtly pornographic undertone, on the one hand and Alice as Barbie doll on the other.Marina Vaizey, Foreword to “Illustrating Alice”
Illustrating Alice in England 1965-1939 – Does Tenniel’s ‘Alice’ Reign Supreme?
Selwyn Goodacre, who penned “Alice in England 1965-1939”, was a long-standing editor of the Lewis Carroll Society Journal, a fitting role for someone who has a collection of over 2000 different copies of ‘Alice’ books. His account starts from Tenniel’s beginnings and surveys the early English illustrated versions, pointing out a few curiosities along the way.
I was surprised to learn that Beatrix Potter (the famous creator of ‘Peter Rabbit’) made a foray into illustrating ‘Alice’. Naturally, the White Rabbit of Wonderland was Beatrix’s fascination. She created five known watercolours featuring this inhabitant of Wonderland; the fifth, showing the White Rabbit helping resuscitate Bill the Lizard (below). I would have loved to see the entire ‘Alice’ illustrated by the talented Beatrix Potter, but sadly she didn’t go beyond these five watercolours. Selwyn Goodacre begs to disagree, suggesting that her ‘Alice’ wouldn’t have ‘passed muster’ given that rendering human figures weren’t Beatrix’s forte…ouch!
Another curiosity called out by Goodacre is “Tenniel’s ‘Alice’ reigns Supreme” illustration by E. T. Reed. It was printed in a 1907 leaflet which was published by Macmillan (the original publisher of ‘Alice’) after the copyright for ‘Alice’ expired in England when Tenniel’s version was no longer exclusive. The leaflet was Macmillan’s attempt to discredit the proliferation of Alice illustrations that began flooding the market during that time. The cartoon shows four of the eight new ‘Alices’ that had appeared in just three months from October to December 1907, and pokes fun at Alice by Millicent Sowerby, Arthur Rackham, Charles Robinson and W H Walker – note the unflattering portrayal of the girls with the ‘Alice’ halos over their heads:
Reed’s caricature was meant to assert the supremacy of Tennie’s ‘Alice’ and hopefully deter the new publishers from trying their hand at it. This attempt to thwart the efforts of its imitators ultimately proved futile, with 30 new editions appearing in England in less than 12 months from the expiry of copyright to the end of 1908. Sixteen new illustrators engaged in those new productions. Many more followed at an unprecedented speed, and as we now know, there show no signs of it slowing down. More than 150 years from when it was first published “Alice in Wonderland” remains a metaphorical “Everest” of the illustrating world which many an artist bravely ascend, some returning to its summit on more than one occasion.
Selwyn Goodacre surveyed dozens of illustrated ‘Alice’ versions by English artists and his account is referenced with numerous reproductions by famous artists like Millicent Sowerby, Arthur Rackham, Charles Pears, Harry Rountree, K. M. Roberts, Thomas Maybank, Mabel Lucie Attwell, A. E. Jackson, Margaret Tarrant, Gwynedd Hudson and Rene Cloke, to name a few. Curtesy of this illuminating essay, I learned that Rene Cloke (below right) has illustrated ‘Alice’ not once, not twice, but four times and all four versions are uniquely different. You can read more about Rene Cloke’s ‘Alice’ here. Inspired by this unparalleled effort I have collected all four and will share a comparative account of those in an upcoming post.
Illustrating Alice in England, 1940 to today – Contemporary Alice Finds a Mature Audience.
The author of “Alice in England, 1940 to today” is Dennis Hall himself, the master whose genius gave birth to Inky Parrot Press and its sister company Artists’ Choice Editions which published “Illustrating Alice” and have blessed Alice fans with a myriad of fabulous versions. These are all limited editions and most have been added to the list of hard-to-find and rare-as-hens-teeth titles. Landing any of these titles is a bibliophile’s ultimate delight. You can read more about Dennis Hall produced “Alices” here.
Dennis Hall reviewed many of the all-time favourite and more elusive classic and contemporary illustrations (see below for a handful of examples) by artists such as Franciszka Themerson, Ralph Steadman, Anthony Browne, Peter Blake, Justin Todd, Tony Ross, Michael Foreman, Helen Oxenbury, Alison Joy, Emma Chichester Clark and one of my personal favourites, the one and only and the impossibly original John Vernon Lord. You can read more about Lord’s “Holy Grail” of all “Alices” here.
Dennis reminisces in this essay of how enjoyable he found working with John Vernon Lord during the production of this ‘Alice’ (Artists Choice Editions: 2009). He suggests that Lord’s ‘Alice’ and “Through the Looking-Glass” are not children’s books, quoting an occasional political twist and some social and cultural references that would most probably be lost on children. I think Lord’s Alice would work equally well for both adults and children. Impressively, John Vernon Lord studied 30 books about Carroll as part of his research for illustrating both of his masterpieces.
Dennis Hall conceptualised who he would have loved to see illustrate ‘Alice’: “Edward Gorey would have produced a dark, jokingly frightening edition, and Ronald Searle would have produced a very political version, using ideas from his hundreds of political cartoons”. Here’s Ronald Searle’s illustration example of a modern-day Alice in a metaphorical rabbit hole of the never-ending duties of the Domestic Wonderland. A fabulous White Rabbit is about to disappear in a more tangible hole of the washing machine drum.
The last illustrated ‘Alice’ that Dennis Hall quotes seeing is that by Trevor Brown (2010). Dennis refers to this artist as “an Englishman now living in Japan, he describes his work as ‘Baby Art’ and it is very Japanese influenced”. From what I’ve seen of Trevor Brown’s ‘Alice’, this account is certainly a severely sanitised one. Few ‘Alices’ that I’ve seen are as disturbing and erotic as Trevor Brown’s. Curious? Then feel free to check out this youtube video showcasing it in its entirety (beware, it’s for mature audiences only and not for those easily offended).
Dennis Hall concluded his essay noting that adults are now seriously discriminated when “not allowed illustrated fiction” (with a few exceptions) and that “English Alices are mainly aimed at children, but abroad, especially in France and Russia, Alice is used as an excuse for very exciting work, definitely for adults”. Let’s have a look at ‘Alice’s’ journey in these two countries next.
Illustrating Alice in Russia – Literary Nonsense and the “Creative Misreading of the Text”
Ella Parry-Davies, who authored “Alice in Russia” essay, is a researcher of Alice illustration, who has contributed to editing Dennis Hall’s other magnificent anthology “Russian Alices. Illustrated Editions of Alice in Wonderland from the USSR and the Post-Soviet Era” (Artists Choice Editions: 2016).
She begins with a survey of the first translations of Carroll’s work into Russian, published with Tenniel’s illustrations, as early as 1879 and seeing a steady success until the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. A temporary burst of optimism and diversity in arts, known as the Russian avant-garde that permeated all artforms and artistic pursuits in the early 1920s was short-lived. Since 1924, Stalin’s dictatorship completely changed the art scene, introducing severe censorship of literature, visual and performing arts, with Social Realism declared as the only acceptable artistic style.
Carrollian literary nonsense was in total opposition to the spirit of Social Realism. Nonsense has been traditionally associated with freedom, imagination and anarchy. As Ella Parry-Davies notes “its recourse to fantasy and imagination, and its lack of engagement with societal concerns of labour and productivity made Carroll’s work at best useless – and at worst dangerously subversive – within the Soviet regime”. ‘Alice’ has seen a similar fate in other totalitarian regimes, forbidden in Italy during the rule of Mussolini, and in China when the Chinese Nationalist Government banned it in the 1930’s for allowing animals to speak to humans.
The advent of Glasnost in Russia, during the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 1980s, along with the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Iron Curtain, saw the resurgence of all manner of freedoms, including the liberation of arts. This paved the way for a prolific range of Russian ‘Alices’ created from the latter years of the Soviet Union to the present day. Many famous illustrators have lent their talents to illustrating ‘Alice’ and a superb line up of examples is reproduced in this anthology, including art by Valery Alfeevsky, Mai Miturich, Eduard Gorohovsky, Gennady Kalinovsky, Julia Gukova, Yuri Vashchenko, Andrei Gennadiev, Andrei Martinov, Tatiana Ianovskaia, Vladimir Clavijo-Telepnev…the list goes on.
Ella Parry-Davies’ intelligent essay puts the work of the Russian illustrators into the context of Russia’s cultural transformation after a long period of political suppression, and refers to the inventiveness and the originality of Russian ‘Alice’ illustrations as “the creative ‘misreading’ of the text“, noting that:
Despite the striking diversity of their images, these illustrators are unified in their attempt to read against Carroll’s texts … These Russian ‘Alice’ illustrators epitomise on of the most important and characteristic qualities of the illustrated work: the dynamic, progressive and exciting dialogue between words and images.
It’s also worth noting that there are many wonderful Russian ‘Alices’ that have followed since the publication of this book. For example, Ksenia Lavrova, Galina Zinko, Ekaterina Kostina to name just a few.
Illustrating Alice in France – “Surrealism Before Surrealism”
If I was to pick my favourite “Alice’ oeuvre by the place of their origin, then illustrations by French artists would be right there at the top, together with their Russian counterparts; so not surprisingly, Russian and French ‘Alices’ dominate my home library’s Alice-shelves.
Many French “Alices” are, fittingly for this story, largely surrealistic. As Marina Vaizey notes in the Foreword: “The events and striking visual imagery of the two instalments of Alice’s adventures are surrealism before surrealism.”
It may sound like there’s a stylistic monotony to the French Wonderlands, but it is quite the opposite. Tolstoy once wrote that “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And like those unhappy families, the French surrealist ‘Alices’ are each a surreal world in their own league, utterly original and uniquely challenging: Comtesse de Segur’s ‘Wonderland’ surrealism is elegant; Alain Gauthier’s – enthralling, magnetic and captivating; Nicole Claveloux’s – intellectual and fascinating; Rebecca Dautremer’s – incredibly fine; Nicolas Guilbert’s – joyously psychedelic; Jean-Claude Silbermann’s – immediate, rough and free-spirited; Pat Andrea is worth mentioning here too (though he is Dutch not French) – his surrealist ‘Alice’ is eccentric, erotic or (as found by some) repulsive.
Despite an incredible diversity, each of the French surrealist visions is equal-parts witty and challenging to the eye, intellect and ego. Their coded beauty is revealed insofar as the observer’s intellect and abstracted thought processes can decipher. Decoding these works is the type of challenge I love.
Enjoy browsing a few examples below, from this book’s essay surveying “Alice in France”, which was penned by Michele Noret, a Parisian bookseller who specialises in 20th-century children’s books for almost 30 years. For more surrealist French illustrations, check out my detailed reviews of Alain Gauthier’s and Jean-Claude Silbermann’s ‘Alice’. As with the Russian chapter above, some of the more recent fabulous editions are not covered, for example the magnificent painterly “Alice in Wonderland” by Daniel Cacouault and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ sequel by the most popular Benjamin Lacombe.
Illustrating Alice In America And Canada – “Byzantine But Mostly Constructive”
Mark Bursten has surveyed “Alice in America” for this anthology. He is the former president of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and has been collecting, studying and writing about Carroll all his life. I found his essay one of the most engaging and entertaining in the entire anthology, despite him being critical of some ‘Alice’ creations in a manner that may seem heavy-handed.
The essay flows from “Fit the First” to “Fit the Seventh” (a nod to Carroll’s epic nonsensical poem “The Hunting of the Snark, subtitled An Agony in Eight Fits”). He characterises the New World’s ‘Alice’ relationship to the Old World’s as “byzantine but mostly constructive“. The rocky start of ‘Alice’s’ American journey began with “Carroll famously relegating the unsatisfactory pages of the first print run of 1865 as ‘wastepaper’ to us lowly bumpkins”, writes Mark Burstein with a tongue-in-cheek sentiment that is a repeated motif of his writing.
Having called out the first American ‘Alice’ editions as ‘pirated’, Bursten proceeds to slam the “Dark Side of dubious pseudo-scholarship” which tried to prove that Dodgson (Carroll’s real name) was a killer or a drug addict, or better yet, that ‘Alice’ was written by Queen Victoria or Mark Twain, not by Carroll.
Talking about the two American Disney film adaptations of ‘Alice’, Mark Burstein portrays the first as being poisonous for many generations’ perception of the classic (I don’t disagree), he goes on to describe the 2010 film version as “an unpalatable trichobezoar coughed up by Californian Tim Burton”. You’ve got to love Mark’s phraseology. I haven’t seen this so-called “trichobezoar” from 2010, but this comment has certainly sparked my curiosity to check it out. Feel free to share your comments below if you agree or disagree with Mark Bursten’s sentiment.
Fortunately, it isn’t entirely doom and gloom and he proceeds to examine many important American contributions to illustrated ‘Alice’ editions (some clearly to Mark Burstein’s liking, others quite far from it) like Peter Newell, Blanche McManus, John R Neill, Bessie Pease Gutmann, Jessie Willcox Smith, Willy Pogany, Marjorie Torrey, David Hall, Michael Hague, Michelle Wiggins, Walter Anderson; the list goes on.
Shown below are a few of my personal favourites in the American and Canadian ‘Alice’ cohort by Barry Moser, Greg Hildebrandt, Maggie Taylor, Oleg Lipchenko, Salvador Dali and Anne Bachelier. The latter is French by origin, but her publisher is in New York, hence, its inclusion in the American section of “Illustrating Alice”. Likewise, the art of (Spanish by birth) Dali, is included in the American ‘Alice’ due to an important 1969 publication by the American Maecenas Press imprint of Random House; a limited edition of 2,500 portfolios of twelve heliogravures of original gouaches and an engraving, signed by Dali and contained in a clamshell box.
Last I checked, there were a few of Dali’s ‘Alice’ 1969 portfolios available for purchase from abebooks.com ranging from US$12,200 to US$24,200 (here is the more modestly priced item for US$12,600). These heliogravures were recently published in a 150th-anniversary edition of “Alice in Wonderland” (Princeton University Press, 2015). Unfortunately, in my opinion, the reproductions in this book (which I own) do not do justice to the originals. Despite only seeing the 1969 portfolio online, I must say that the colours in the 2015 book look dull compared to the crisp and vibrant 1969 plates, possibly as a result of the 2015 book printed on the cream/off-white paper; beautiful in itself but misrepresentative, it seems, of the original colours. The 1969 Dali’s enigmatic, drippy, trippy heliogravures portfolio is on my ‘what the hell, it’s only money’ wishlist – are you listening Universe?
Summing up the American contribution to the Carrollian universe Mark Bursten concludes as follows:
So do we Americans, the proverbial red-headed stepsister, the recipient of hte 1865 ‘wastepaper’, have a particularly common, nationalistic vision of Alice” Unlinke the unformly dark, Goth-tinged ones produced in Eastern Europe and Russia under Communist rule, no, not in the slightest… But in the centruy and a half since the tale was told, we in North Amreica are quite produ of our contributions to the Carrollian universe. There’s glory for you.
Without going into too much detail suffice it to say that “Alice’s” journey around the world was not all smooth sails, but it did get there in the end and there is hardly a corner of it now where Alice would not have been heard of. Enjoy browsing the examples of illustrations by artists from various other, non-English speaking, countries where ‘Alice’ has not only made an appearance but left quite a mark and a lasting impression. Check out my review of 1994 editions of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” by the Japanese artist Kuniyoshi Kaneko (who produced more than one version of “Wonderland” throughout his prolific artistic career)
Illustrating Alice in Italy
Illustrating Alice in Poland
Illustrating Alice in Brazil, China & Japan
Illustrating Alice in Australia – The Missing Chapter?
Who am I to question the choices of the genius Dennis Hall, for whom I have the utmost respect and admiration. Maybe it’s because I call Australia home, but it seems to me that an “Alice in Australia” would have greatly enriched and lent even more weight to this encyclopedic publication. Allow me if I may then rectify this forgivable oversight with a shout-out to the many ‘Alice’ standouts who come from the Antipodes (not antipathies).
Similarly to the Old World (England) and the New World (North America), Alice experienced great success in Australia. It reached the then colonial shores of Australia not long after the book was published in England, with book supplies taking several months to arrive by ship. Its popularity was instant and, not surprisingly, many artists have tried their hand at illustrating ‘Alice’.
You need only flip through “Alice 125: A celebration of the book” – the catalogue of a touring exhibition in 1990-1991 curated by Gryphon Gallery, University of Melbourne – to see the proliferation of Australian talent who have rendered the Carrollian Wonderland. No less than 125 Australian artists contributed to this exhibition to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the book. Australia’s foremost children’s book illustrator Pixie O’Harris; the celebrated protagonist in the contemporary art scene of the mid-20th c, Charles Blackman; the youngest talent contributing at the time who is now world-renowned Australian illustrator Gavin O’Keefe, have all illustrated ‘Alice’.
Since then, other artists have offered their visions of ‘Alice’ and its sequel, including the Australian national treasure Robert Ingpen (check out his “Wonderland” and “Through The Looking-Glass” first published by Palazzo Editions). Arguably the world’s first Indigenous adaptation and translation into the First Nations’ Pitjantjatjara language by Nancy Sheppard gave us ‘Alitji’, a beautiful black Alice, who opened up Carroll’s Wonderland to Aboriginal kids. “Alitji in Dreamtime” (University of Adelaide, 1975) was beautifully illustrated by Byron S. Sewell; later “Aliti in Dreamland” (Simon & Schuster Australia, 1992) was illustrated by the Award-winning Indigenous artist Donna Leslie.
Whilst a few illustrations (by Charles Blackman, Robert Ingpen and Gavin O’Keefe) were included in the 2nd part of this anthology I can’t help but think that the Australian journey of ‘Alice’ deserved a dedicated narrative in the geographical survey section. Partially compensating was the inclusion of the brilliant essay by Gavin O’Keefe in the part of the anthology where several famous artists’ reflect on their personal illustrating ‘Alice’ journey.
‘Alice’ in Film
An internationally acclaimed Czech artist and filmmaker Jan Švankmajer has a lifelong interest in surrealism. He produced the feature film ‘Alice’ (1968) as well as illustrated both Carroll’s books, which are available in Japanese and English.
In his brilliant essay, Švankmajer reflects on his experience of adapting ‘Alice’ for film and the long journey of its production whilst navigating obstacles and diplomacy in the socialist Czechoslovakia, where the script was turned down, censored and locked away for years; and later also in Slovakia, where the studio heads were concerned that the film would cast a negative light on life in Slovakia.
Reflecting on his illustrations of Carroll’s books Švankmajer wrote:
My constant returning to Alice means that to me she is an inexhaustible source of inspiration (like the rest of the childhood itself), but also because none of my creations has left me fully satisfied. And these illustrations are no exception. I really need to sit down in peace and quiet, pick up a pencil and start again.”
Following Jan Švankmajer’s article is an essay called “Animating Alice: the heroine without a heart” penned by Karen Lury who looked at film adaptations starting from the 1903 silent film, to the early 1900s, mid-20th c. and the two latest versions (that Mark Burstein found so appalling) – the 1951 Disney and 2010 Tim Burton films.
Illustrating Alice – Reflections From the Artists
This cleverly crafted section of the book includes 12 brief essays (one for each chapter of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”) by some of the great contemporary illustrators who reflect on their illustrating ‘Alice’ journey. Each piece is accompanied by numerous examples of illustrations by other artists for each respective chapter. Essays were contributed by Michael Foreman, Chiara Carrer, Ralph Steadman, Helen Oxenbury, Barry Moser, Justin Todd, John Vernon Lord, Emma Chichester-Clark, Gavin O’Keefe, DeLoss McGraw, Tatiana Ianovskaia and John Bradley.
Michael Foreman speaks of his Wonderland being his native Cornwall in England and how that influenced conceptualising his illustrations for ‘Alice’. Ralph Steadman reflects on his creative process during which the initial idea is not fully formed and the drawing slowly acquires a life of its own and dictates the direction it will follow. Justin Todd sheds light on the limitation of the number of pictures (22 colour plates) that was imposed by his publisher, which forced him to be very inventive in combining some scenes and sequences on one plane.
Most surprising for me was John Bradley’s account of the rocky start to his no less shaky ‘Alice’ journey. Being totally candid (which I admire), his essay notes from the outset that he has never been a fan of the book. He took the commission which had a very tight production deadline, whilst juggling many other jobs. John ultimately ended up being disappointed with his efforts, despite the resultant book being awarded first prize at the Philadelphia book show in the same year it was published; here is John Bradley’s rather bleak reflection about his work:
“From my point of view it resulted in a bit of a ‘curate’s egg’ of an illustrated book, a book I was never entirely happy with but that I did finish on time. I was least happy with the character of Alice herself as I thought I didn’t really have enough time to develop a consistent and individualistic interpretation that was my own – also the publisher was keen to ‘soften’ my approach for commercial purposes – so I was feeling frustrated that Alice let down some of the other characters.”
I have enjoyed the writing of the ever articulate John Vernon Lord, who stayed within the confines of the brief for this part of the anthology, which was his reflections on illustrating “a particular chapter”; in this instance, The Mad Tea Party. Whilst other artists wrote about their illustrating ‘Alice’ experience at large, John Lord sticks with the assigned chapter experiences. He reflects on the importance of staying true to the text, which was tested by Carroll’s inclusion of little description of the characters at the tea party. He then speaks, at some length, about illustrating a few items of everything that begins with an “M”, such as mouse traps, and the moon, and memory and muchness, as discussed in the mad tea party scene. Check out my reviews of the awesome Artists’ Choice Editions of John Vernon Lord’s “Alice in Wonderland” (2009) and “Through the Looking-Glass” (2011).
I also enjoyed the Australian illustrator Gavin O’Keefe’s essay, which lets us in on his long-standing association with ‘Alice’. He has illustrated it twice (in the late 1980s, published in Australia in 1990 and again in 2011). The second time he also illustrated “Through the Looking-Glass” and both books were published in a companion volume.
Gavin O’Keefe’s initial inspiration included Tenniel, some horror writings, the surrealist notions and other contemporary illustrators (notably, Mervyn Peake). These have blended into the most unique vision of black and white “Wonderland”, permeated with O’Keefe’s signature darkness and strangeness rarely seen in other versions.
Having always wondered what artists might feel when they come back to an already illustrated work, I have found an answer in Gavin’s experience. His second go at ‘Alice’ was prompted 20 years after the first version was published. By then he had set about illustrating “Through the Looking-Glass” and found that he had “moved on artistically“. He wanted his second ‘Alice’ to be stylistically consistent with the sequel and ended up creating illustrations that “vacillated between the literal and the surreal, between the simple and the complex” and bore little resemblance to his earlier 1980’s ‘Alice’ version.
Rumour has it that Gavin O’Keefe is thinking of illustrating “Wonderland” for a third time, possibly in colour this time. Multiple returns to ‘Alice’ are not unheard of – think Rene Cloke, Gennady Kalinovksy, Kuniyoshi Kaneko. Below is Gavin’s pre-emptive reflection on what it might look like:
If I were to visit Wonderland and the Looking-Glass World once more, my illustrations would be different once again – just as the illustration of the many artists who have been inspired by ‘Alice’ exhibit differing perspectives.
“Alice Through the Looking-Glass” illustrations by Chapter
This section of the book has no written content but presents examples of various illustrators’ work for each Chapter of the “Through the Looking-Glass” sequel. Enjoy browsing a small fraction of this visual feast!
Cheeky Alice – Unpublished Illustrations
Adorning title pages of various sections, half-title and concluding pages are some unpublished illustrations ranging from comical (like Alice in Wonderbra), to sublimely beautiful (like John Brownlee’s caterpillar); Dennis Hall was clearly having fun with his production.
The book concludes with a great Afterword by Graham Ovenden and two reference resources: the Checklist of English language editions of “Alice in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through the Looking-Glass (in alphabet order of the illustrators), and the Index of Artists who illustrated non-English language editions, including the unpublished examples reproduced throughout the anthology.
Beautifully presented endpapers showcase work by 4 artists: Dusan Kallay, Robert Ingpen, John Bradley and Charles Voysey.
Despite a few inaccuracies that were missed by the editors proofreading this volume (eg. some misspellings of names and a few other minor inconsistencies), this anthology is an outstanding resource. The intellectual rigour of the essays contributed by some of the foremost Carrollian universe luminaries, the proliferation of reproduced examples of illustrations from around the world (more than 600), its structural organisation and a comprehensive and easy to navigate Checklist and Index at the end – culminate to make this a must-have anthology for any Carroll or ‘Alice’ enthusiast, researcher or collector.
What an impressive book for an enthusiast of the Alice books! I loved Ronald Searle’s cartoon XD How Nice that the book has also a section about Poland!
Some months ago I read a beautiful Polish edition of TTLG (2018) with illustrations by Marta Żurawska-Zaręba. Check it out someday, it’s great! It’s also the first time I read a version of Alice in Polish with annotations. This was a translation by Maciej Słomczyński; the basic version of that translation didn’t have footnotes, it was someone’s else work. I recall that Robert Stiller was the translator who first used footnotes in his Alice; although I haven’t read that version yet. And it wasn’t illustrated first by any Polish artist but by Dušan Kállay instead.
It is indeed great that it has the section about Poland, but I still can’t believe that they’ve left out Australia! I have just checked out that 2018 edition of “O tym, co Alicja odkryła po drugiej stronie lustra” illustrated by Marta Żurawska-Zaręba – found a fragment of it on http://www.zielonasowa.pl. There’s only one illustration in that fragment – it’s stunning! I’m curious to see more, may be you can show a few in your Instagram stories? I’ve only read one version with annotations in Russian and love how it hones in on details and offers fascinating context. Particularly liked learning more about the nonsense verse originals, which Carroll parodied. The surrealistic illustrations by Dušan Kállay, whom you’ve mentioned, are very famous. But I still haven’t got his version, it’s on my ‘to get’ list. Thanks for stepping by, Judith! I always enjoy reading your reflections.
I can’t believe they included Poland, which has comparatively very very few books of Alice, but they did not include Germany, or Spain – truly bizarre!
Hmmm, I haven’t thought about German or Spanish editions in this sense. There’s a proliferation of them (at least of the Spanish ones) in the most recent decade, right? This anthology was published quite some time ago, could that be the reason? Germans (like Haacken) aren’t represented at all from memory. What are some prominent German / Spanis “Alices” you have?
I finally had a chance to check out this incredibly in-depth review of this anthology. I was prompted to do so after reading your post on Gavin O’Keefe’s “The Alice Books” where you noted that Dennis Hall had asked Gavin to contribute an entire article to “Illustrating Alice”. Great review as always Natalia.
Thanks for your kind words, Richard! I’m glad that you’ve come to this anthology from my review of Gavin O’Keefe’s “Alice”. Dennis Hall’s artistic tastes and publishing aesthetics are impeccable and what he’s amassed in this anthology is nothing short of amazing. But I sense that you are a bit of an illustrated Alice connoisseur yourself, am I probably preaching to the converted here?.. Btw, I’m hunting for two other great compilations published by Dennis Hall. One with the longest title of “Russian Alices. Illustrated Editions of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ from the USSR and the Post-Soviet Era” and “Alice in Wonderland Sesquicentennial Editon”. If you happen to see or hear of a “standard edition” version of either, please let me know!
I found a standard copy of Russian Alices last year, don’t remember, probably on AbeBooks.
And I am trying to get Sesquicentennial standard too, they always have the 600 deluxe editions available….
I wouldn’t mind “Russian Alices”, however, given how many of actual Russian “Alice” versions I have on my shelves it is probably not critical for me to have this reference book / anthology. The one I really (REALLY) wouldn’t mind is Sesquicentennial edition from Artist Choice. Let’s see who hunts this down first – you or me! 🙂
Nat, this review is not a review but a blooming book by you!!!
It’s one of my favourite books, your recommendation was perfect. Now you have to convince Marta to buy a copy 😉
Thank you! Tried my best with Marta, hope she understands what a ‘must have’ it is for her!