White Rabbit as heraldThe evocative paring of Lewis Carroll’s infamous writing alongside Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations have graced many a bookshelf, school bag and bedside table. And it would seem that it is this amalgamation of the two which bring the nonsensical to the senses; turning the weird into wonder-land.  

British artist Sir John Tenniel crafted his prominent career as an illustrator and political satirist during the nineteenth century. Initially known for his work as principle cartoonist for Punch magazine, Tenniel is said to have created in excess of 2300 cartoons for the journal alongside the ‘punch brotherhood’ in the 1840s and 50s.

Following this, in 1865, Tenniel embarked on a creative union with the author Lewis Carroll which created a measurable amount of his fame and success. It was here that he produced the imagery for two of Carroll’s best known titles: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. For the first of these two novels Tenniel provided 42 wood engraved illustrations and with them bought further life to the fantastical world and characters described in Carroll’s writing.

Each of Tenniel’s illustrations for these novels were engraved into blocks of deal wood and it is precisely from these original blocks that the exhibition’s prints are taken; presenting the now iconic images of curious characters such as the Mad Hatter, March Hare and an array of anthropomorphic creatures such as the White Rabbit and of course Alice herself.

A range of talks, workshops, family activities and a Mad Hatter’s Ball take place throughout July and August. See the Herbert’s website for details.

Sir John Tenniel’s Illustrations to the Alice Books
Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Jordan Well, Coventry, CV1 5QP
0247 683 2386
theherbert.org | @The_Herbert
Until 8 September

Words: Kaye Patrick

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