Artist of Wonderland: The Life, Political Cartoons, and Illustrations of Tenniel (Victorian Literature & Culture (Hardcover)) Hardcover – 30 May 2006
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Morris has almost certainly looked at every bit of art (extant and available) that Tenniel produced. Many of the theses advanced along the way are fresh and in some cases unprecedented....The book can claim to be the standard work on Tenniel. - Richard Maxwell, Yale University, editor of The Victorian Illustrated Book
About the Author
The art historian and artist Frankie Morris is the author of numerous articles on the work of John Tenniel.
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Tenniel was invited to _Punch_ by its first editor in 1850. At that time, the magazine had been in existence only nine years, but had already become a mainstay in presenting the conservative, middle to upper class views of Victorian England. It was not long before Tenniel moved up from doing small pictures to doing a title page, and eventually to the full page weekly cartoon that was to make him famous. At a Wednesday staff dinner, the subject and treatment of the cartoon would be discussed, and Tenniel would take the ideas and make them his; Morris shows how he simplified and intensified one image after another. It was often turned into a banner for different causes, handed around for group comment, pasted onto kiosks, or copied in other papers internationally. Lewis Carroll asked for Tenniel to do the illustrations for the first Alice book in 1863. Carroll was a fan of _Punch_ and the drawings therein. It was a nearly perfect partnership of author and illustrator. They were of the same class, both frank and honest, both lovers of the theater, Shakespeare, toys, and pantomimes, and especially they delighted in children. Morris's interpretation of the pictures will be of interest to anyone who loves the Alice books. For instance, there is much about how important pantomimes were to both Carroll and Tenniel. Carroll loved the holiday entertainments, as part of his affection for his child friends, and Tenniel called upon stage representations of pantomime characters to interact with Alice. There were, for instance, chess games in some pantomimes with human pieces; many of the chessmen Tenniel depicts are not chessmen at all, but are people dressed up in chessmen costumes. The same could be said of his Humpty Dumpty, or the leg of mutton to whom Alice is introduced.
Morris shows that Tenniel's political cartoons are important guides to British thought and sentiment of their times, and they have been frequently reproduced to illustrate history books. There are many that she shows here, and each has an explanation to put it into historical context; we require that, because they are from a strange and distant land and time. It is not so with the Alice illustrations, which come from a strange and distant fantasy source, but whose realistic representation of a bizarre world is beyond explanation. In this they are timeless classics. Any Alice fan will enjoy this good-looking volume, which is sure to become a main reference to Tenniel's life and art.