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120 Images from the Classic Tales of Lewis Carroll
By Jeff A. Menges
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Jeff A. Menges
All rights reserved.
Sir John Tenniel (1820–1914) 1865 and 1872
Sir John Tenniel's importance to the visuals of Wonderland cannot be overstated. As the story's original illustrator in 1865, Tenniel created 42 line pieces that depicted all of the significant characters. The book's huge success made Tenniel's illustrations definitive for Alice, and it is likely that Tenniel's edition has been available in reprint form continuously since its original publication. When Carroll's "revisit" to Wonderland in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There came up in 1872, Tenniel initially turned down Carroll's offer to illustrate it. While both author and illustrator had benefited greatly from the success of Wonderland, they had many disagreements on its depiction, which caused Tenniel to pass up the offer. Only after Carroll's unsuccessful attempts to attract another illustrator (possibly due to his reputation for being difficult, or the looming task of following the iconic Tenniel drawings) did Tenniel agree.
Originally better known for magazine illustration—Tenniel was for some time a staff illustrator for Punch—he produced or contributed to several illustrated books before his fame with Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, including Undine and Aesop's Fables.
Peter Newell (1862–1924) 1901
More than one American publisher produced an edition while the British copyright was still in place. The Harper and Brothers edition with illustrations by Peter Newell was published in 1901, followed by sister volumes of Through the Looking Glass and The Hunting of the Snark. While Newell produced an elaborate and fresh edition, with halftone images and intricate repeating decorations, its reception was mixed, largely due to the complete dominance that the Tenniel drawings had stamped on the story.
Whereas Tenniel's background had largely been political satire and caricature, Newell was more of a pure cartoonist, telling a visual story for the humor it might provide. He created many children's books that used visual devices to further their uniqueness and is seen as a pioneer in children's humor publishing.
Arthur Rackham (1867–1939) 1907
After Tenniel created the visuals to populate Wonderland, there is little doubt that any edition was more eagerly anticipated than Arthur Rackham's 1907 edition—while many felt that the reimagining of Wonderland by any illustrator was unnecessary, Rackham was already a star in the children's book market, and high expectations for this edition were placed on his shoulders. He delivered a more mature Alice for London publisher William Heinemann, as well as some of the first images of Alice to be printed in full-color. His edition was better received than the others that came out that same year, and time has proven it to be one of the best-loved adaptations.
Arthur Rackham could be considered the leading figure in all of children's book illustration for the first half of the twentieth century. He had a long and prolific career, producing memorable and highly sought-after editions, from fairy tales to Shakespeare.
Charles Robinson (1870–1937) 1907
Not to stand by idly while the Heinemann edition was produced, many other publishers in England took the opportunity to produce a premier edition of Alice as its original copyright expired. The scramble came for a top-tier illustrator who could deliver something different from the expectations of the Rackham edition and the original Tenniel drawings. Charles Robinson was an excellent pick for Cassell and Company. Though his color plates may not have drawn the appeal of Rackham's, his distinct line, with its heavy use of solid blacks, grants this edition a captivating graphic quality, separating it immediately from those that depict Alice for a more juvenile market. Robinson imagined a slightly darker side to Wonderland, and may have opened the door to more of that interpretation that would follow in later years.
One of three brothers who held successful careers in the illustration market, Charles was the first to do an edition of Alice. Charles Robinson had a strong career in classic children's stories, with book illustration being the focus of his productivity. His older brother, Thomas Heath Robinson, tried his hand at the tale in 1922.
Millicent Sowerby (1878–1967) 1907
One of the few tales of the period with a strong female lead, adventurous and inquisitive, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has always attracted women illustrators. Millicent Sowerby was one of the earliest to illustrate Alice, as part of the 1907 group. Sowerby had established herself as an illustrator of girls' subjects, and would have been considered a "natural" for a publisher to select for work on Alice. It was not the only pairing she would have with a big name in the children's market—she produced a number of works with Robert Louis Stevenson, in addition to a long-running group of works she did with her sister, Githa.
W. H. Walker (active 1905–1915?) 1907
Whereas W. H. Walker can be connected to few children's books of the period, the contribution he made to the Alice canon has had lasting merit. The brightly colored palette of his Alice illustrations make them quite distinct, without burying the draftsmanship of his line drawings.
Harry Rountree (1878–1950) 1908
When looking for editions that stand out from the rest, there is no discounting the 1908 Alice illustrated by Harry Rountree. Not only are all of the illustrations in full-color—a quite rare and expensive endeavor at the time—but there are 92 of them, from vignetted details to full pages. Rountree's brush has a freshness to it, painting with a more traditional usage of watercolor and encouraging the white highlights of the paper to shine through (uncommon for children's book illustration in 1908). Aside from this unusual application of the medium, Rountree had another facet that made Alice a great choice for him. In earlier works he had displayed a fantastic ability to characterize animals; it had become a specialty of sorts, which he was able to take full advantage of in the characters of Wonderland.
Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879–1964) 1910
Few illustrators have approached the task of Alice with more personal flair than Mabel Lucie Attwell. Attwell had already illustrated several books and done a good deal of magazine work when she tackled Alice in Wonderland for Raphael Tuck in 1910. Her style was readily identifiable—with a friendly, simple manner—she was a pioneer in the direction of children's book illustration that would carry on through the twentieth century. The strength she had in the characterization of children made her a popular choice for children's stories. Add to this the limited palette of color that she worked with in her Alice pieces, and hers are some of the most unique in all the color-plate editions of the period.
George Soper (1870–1942) 1910
Before the book boom of the early twentieth century, George Soper had done well establishing himself in English periodicals that carried a great deal of line illustration. His success with children's magazines like The Captain led to the opportunity to illustrate books in color. Soper landed assignments for many of the classic titles that were being republished at the time—Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare in 1909 preceded his edition of Alice in Wonderland, and later he would add titles such as The Arabian Nights, The Water-Babies, and Tanglewood Tales to his resume. His passion for line art returned to him in the 1920s, when he pursued etching in addition to maintaining a career in illustration. Soper's two daughters also carved out careers in art; his second daughter, Eileen, became a successful illustrator in her own right.
A. E. Jackson (1873–1952) 1914
A. E. Jackson's illustrations for Alice in 1914 show a deep commitment to the work—the careful study of architecture used in the piece that serves as a frontispiece for this volume provides a clue that Jackson really devoted himself to the material. His work also features full and complex compositions and a carefully restricted use of color.
Jackson worked in the illustration field from 1893 to 1947, accomplishing a long list of classic illustrated titles, including Gulliver's Travels, The Water-Babies, and Tales from the Arabian Nights, in addition to regularly working with a number of children's annuals.
Margaret Tarrant (1888–1959) 1916
The simple and effective use of the vignette helped Margaret Tarrant's edition gain an identity of its own. Already an established book illustrator by the time she took on Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for Ward, Lock, in 1916, Tarrant had done a good deal of work for greeting card publishers and had over a dozen book titles to her credit, starting with her edition of The Water-Babies in 1908. Though Tarrant often did fairy tale illustration during her career, the latter stage of her professional days were largely occupied with religious works; she traveled to Palestine in 1936 to collect material for those subjects.
Milo Winter (1888–1956) 1916
Milo Winter had found a niche in American publishing, and it was located in Chicago. While most children's book publishing in the first quarter of the twentieth century was coming out of England or the northeast parts of the United States, Winter had partnered with American publisher Rand McNally to become middle America's children's book illustrator. McNally published many of the same classics that came out of London, New York, and Boston, but, with less shipping expense, they had found a market of their own in America's heartland.
Winter's book illustration career really started around 1912, with the publication of a book of Winter's own writing, Billy Popgun. Shortly afterwards he began his work with McNally, with whom he would work steadily for the next three decades, producing competitive plate books of classics, of which Alice was a welcome addition.
Charles Folkard (1878–1963) 1921
Charles Folkard entered the profession of illustration after designing some of his own flyers to promote his magic act. His continued successes in illustration were almost as diverse—after a short period in magazine work, Folkard got a break in 1910 with his first "gift book," The Swiss Family Robinson. The following year, Folkard found a home with a new publisher, A. & C. Black, with whom he would work for the next twenty-seven years. In addition to his book work, Folkard developed a highly successful cartoon strip in 1915 for the Daily Mail, called "Teddy Tail."
Folkard's Alice imagery first appeared in 1921 in Songs from Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, later reprinted in a more traditional edition of the story in 1929.
Gwynedd Hudson (active 1910–1935) 1922
There are few shorter, potentially bright careers in book illustration that I have come across in years of research than that of Gwynedd Hudson. Her output in published book work may consist of as few as three books. The third, published in 1922, was her edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which is a fine example of color-plate book work. Twelve plates—beautiful, fully realized paintings—include the cover image of this collection. Hudson's choice to portray the mad hatter's tea-party in an autumn setting distinguishes it from others, providing a color scheme that previous illustrators had not thought to explore, resulting in a freshness without any disrespect for the material. The artist later went on to do more design-related materials, including posters for the London Underground.
Willy Pogány (1882–1955) 1929
The decade that followed World War I was a period crying out for change, and it happened culturally in many ways. Through art, music, design, and fashion, separation from the Victorian era had become complete, and many aspects of the past were left behind.
The need for a fresh approach to a then sixty-five-year-old classic children's tale brought E. P. Dutton to find Willy Pogány. Pogány did something throughout his long and prolific career that few other commercial artists can manage—he changed his style to suit the times. This trait meant that Pogány's Alice would be familiar to the children of the day, and not look as if it were from an "old-fashioned tale." Pogány did it well, and gave us a distinctive Alice that tells us of the time she is from, rather than the period Carroll wrote.
Barry Moser (b. 1940) 1983
One of the most interesting editions to be produced in the last half-century is one that returned to the roots of Alice images, containing only line art. Barry Moser's moody portraits and outstanding technical skill as a woodcut artist made this unlike any previous edition. Moser has the ability to place great character in his figures, and the plates he produced for his editions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are no exception. In Moser's art, the characters of Alice have become iconic, and they provide a statement in their visual presentation alone.
Excerpted from Alice Illustrated by Jeff A. Menges. Copyright © 2012 Jeff A. Menges. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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