John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland

Sir John Tenniell made his original drawings for Alice in Wonderland on boxwood blocks which were then engraved by the Dalziel brothers. The engravers advised Lewis Carroll that the engraved blocks shouldn’t be used for printing the illustrations in the books because it would wear them down and they were instead used as the masters from which electrotype copies were made.

Tenniel was also the chief political cartoonist for Punch magazine working there for over 50 years.

Being a staunch defender of empire, his cartoons depicted the Irish nationalists as monstrous apes. Also, as India threw off British rule and the British public cheered the massacres of Indian civilians, Tenniel did his part by depicting the British lion savaging a Bengal Tiger. Another cartoon showed an overmatched policeman with only a baton to protection himself fighting off a menacing domestic hooligans. No doubt he would have strongly approved of the Darth Vader protective gear of the cops along with guns, tasers and pepper spray valiantly battling the 80 year old grandmothers at OWS protests.

For some odd reason we rarely see these lesser-known works by Tenniel.

But most recall the  lovely innocent Alice illustrations.


About trueoutsider

I'm an artist.
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2 Responses to John Tenniel’s Alice in Wonderland

  1. Paris says:

    do you know where tenniel’s inspiration came from from these illustrations?

  2. trueoutsider says:

    Hi Paris,

    From looking at the available information, my understanding is that Carroll had very specific notions about how he wanted his book to be illustrated, the the point that Tenniel was reluctant to even continue the illustrations for the second book. Through the Looking Glass. So the relationship between the two men wasn’t hearts and flowers.
    Carroll wrote after the books were published:

    Mr. Tenniel is the only artist, who has drawn for me, who has resolutely refused to use a model, and declared he no more needed one than I should need a multiplication table to work a mathematical problem! I venture to think that he was mistaken and that for want of a model, he drew several pictures of “Alice” entirely out of proportion–head decidedly too large and feet decidedly too small.

    So in this sense I might venture an answer to your question that the inspiration was partly from Carroll’s elaborate instructions and partly from Tenniel’s own stubborn insistence to draw from his own imagination—his resolute refusal to use a model… The kind of anthropomorphized animal drawings of Tenniel had their master, as far as my tastes go, in the work of JJ Grandville (Jean Ignace Isidore Gérard—1803-1847). I imagine Tenniel was aware of Grandville and also of his falling far short of Grandville’s achievements. Grandville would have been some 20 odd years dead when Tenniel got the commission from Carroll. But one can only imagine what he would have done with it.

    https://i1.wp.com/lh3.ggpht.com/_0mbKhqrvEgM/TCCfSJyGn1I/AAAAAAAAayo/5xOfABioDDk/J.J.Grandville_thumb3.jpg

    https://i2.wp.com/j-walkblog.com/images/grandville057.jpg

    https://i2.wp.com/24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_kwvqeyedhB1qzhl9eo1_500.jpg

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