Friday, March 12, 2010

Alice Art

'Be what you would seem to be'--or if you'd like it put more simply--'Never
imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others
that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had
been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'"---The Duchess

For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge Alice in Wonderland fan (I know I've mentioned it before). Alice's Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are two books that I re-read regularly. I make it a point to see each film adaption no matter how strange or unusual. For the record I have not yet seen the new Tim Burton adaption yet. I don't do the theaters so I'll have wait until it comes out on video. Although it looks strange enough for me to enjoy.

The really wonderful thing about Alice is that there are so many adaptions to choose from, both print and film. More illustrators, filmmakers, and artists have tackled Alice over the years than almost any other book in history. It is rife with possibilities. And each new version offers something new. There is the original manuscript, available online as part of the British Museum's Turning the Pages series. That version includes black and white illustrations drawn by Lewis Carroll himself. See below.

There is the original published version which included the work of the amazingly talented Sir John Tenniel (still considered the authoritative work on Alice).

But there are others who have tackled Alice with differing effects. This poster by Honor Appleton is one that I've been looking to purchase for years now but didn't know the artist.

We all know this particular version of Alice. Disney may be a child's first introduction to these classic works but it tends to be the one that was the least faithful to the book.

For film versions I own the star-studded 1999 television version directed by Nick Willing. This offered us Gene Wilder as the Mock Turtle, Peter Ustinov as Walrus, Ben Kingsley as Caterpillar, Martin Short as the Mad Hatter, Miranda Richardson as the Queen of Hearts, and Whoopi Goldberg as the odd choice for Cheshire Cat. It was also one of the more faithful adaptions I've seen.

I recently reviewed the new SyFy version of Alice here which strayed so far from the book that only character names were identifiable.

What got me thinking about this post was a new website that I found on Monday. Lauren Harman is an illustrator and designer who also has a passion for Alice art. She has put together one of the most impressive collections of Alice artwork that I've ever seen. Much of the images here came from her site. If you are even remotely interested in the Alice motif, I would recommend stopping by. If nothing else it was amazing to see the sheer variety of styles and images. Everyone from Barry Moser to Arthur Rackham have tried their hand. And Alice will continue to inspire artists into the future. I can't wait to see what they come up with.

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