Scenes from a carriage

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One of John Tenniel’s illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass (1871).

The collaboration with Carroll, and the production of this clairvoyant illustration gave Tenniel the chance to accuse the killer, whose identity he knew – because he had, at some level, shared in the crime. His capped (or crowned) Guard wears the Diamond and stares, eyeless, at the girl: because he is, or stands for, the Red King. He is checkmated. The Goat accuses him, a Tarot Devil, representing ‘ravishment, force, fatality’. So Tenniel is able to put into his depiction of Alice the details of the murders that the police have never made public. The hands of the victims were always tied in front of them – as Alice’s are, within her muff. They were all strangled with a knotted scarf, such as the one that Alice wears. And a single feather was knotted into their hair. I rest my case.

There’s further divination by Iain Sinclair of Tenniel’s carriage scene in his 1991 novel Downriver but you’ll have to search out the book if you want the rest. The picture above is scanned from my 1908 edition of the two Alice novels which has the sharpest reproductions of Tenniel’s illustrations I’ve seen, not least because they’re printed on quality paper. Later editions often print second- or third-generation copies with the cross-hatched areas reduced to black smudges.

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Oedipus by Max Ernst from Une semaine de bonté (1934).

Tenniel’s carriage scene has always been linked for me with this collage by Max Ernst from his Surrealist masterwork, Une semaine de bonté. Sinclair’s proposed murder scenario gives the two pictures an additional resonance when you notice the body on the floor of Ernst’s carriage. Is this Oedipus’s father, recently slain by his son, or some other victim?

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Lithograph by Max Ernst from Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn (1970).

Salvador Dalí illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1969 which perhaps prompted Ernst’s own set of mysterious Alice-inspired lithographs a year later. I’ve yet to see a complete set of the Ernst prints, if anyone has a link then please leave a comment. The artist’s collage novel is a lot easier to find since it’s one of the many great books that Dover Publications keep in print.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar
Jabberwocky
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice

Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar

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Looking-Glass House.

So here it is at last, this year’s much-delayed calendar design, the sequel to last year’s well-received Psychedelic Wonderland. I’ll get the business stuff out of the way first: would-be purchasers should go to the CafePress shop here while for a better preview of all the artwork look here.

Update: This calendar is now available again.

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Jabberwocky.

“Seeing Alice’s adventures through the psychotropic prism of the late Sixties showed me the way into Wonderland,” I wrote last year, “What’s needed now is to do the same next year for Looking-Glass Land.” Where the first design was a pleasure to work on—and somehow only took me three weeks—this one turned into a considerable chore. It was my fault, I got started too late, hadn’t really thought what I was going to do (although the earlier design was completely improvised) and, worst of all, was trying to get this done whilst engaged with a stack of far more important work at the same time. As a result it’s a relief to have finished it at all since I nearly abandoned things on more than one occasion.

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The Garden of Live Flowers.

Another problem was the nature of the two Alice books. Wonderland is a lot easier to illustrate than Looking-Glass although I didn’t quite realise this until I’d begun. The chapters of the first book are very distinctive scenes, each with a differing flavour from those that precede them. The second book either repeats settings—there are many woodland encounters since the chessboard across which Alice moves is a landscape—or the chapters are wholly confused, as in Wool and Water which begins in a train carriage, switches to a shop then ends up in a rowing-boat. As you’ll see below, I opted to illustrate the boat.

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Looking-Glass Insects.

Excuses and complaints aside, I’m very pleased with a couple of these pictures; the Jabberwock came out better than I expected considering I was working at a rate of knots while the Wasp in a Wig (from the book’s lost chapter) could be given a Whistlerian title like Arrangement in Yellow and Black. As with the previous calendar design, the Alice figures change dramatically since they’re all taken from 19th century illustration or advertising art. And I’m now rather tired of looking at insipid pictures of Victorian children… If I do a calendar next year I think I’ll return to compiling earlier work unless inspiration and free time miraculously coincide. For now I hope that everyone who enjoyed the earlier calendar appreciates this one to the same degree.

Continue reading “Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar”

Jabberwocky

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The Jabberwock (2010).

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!”
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought–
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
He chortled in his joy.
‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

The past month has been inordinately busy which has meant all the fine plans for a 2011 Coulthart calendar have been set back further than intended. No prizes for guessing the theme this year. This picture made its web debut last weekend at Alicenations, a Brazilian site devoted to all things Carrollian. Lots of splendid artwork on the rest of their page, including some of Jan Svankmajer’s Alice collages and some familiar bestiary hybrids. As to the calendar, I’m pleased to say the series of pictures is starting to feel halfway finished so I may have the whole thing completed and uploaded to CafePress sometime next week. Keep your vorpal blades crossed. In the meantime, here’s a picture detail, and while we’re on the subject, let’s not forget Terry Gilliam’s first feature film or the 1968 single from Boeing Duveen & The Beautiful Soup. (Given a choice I prefer the B-side, Which Dreamed It?)

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice

Charles Robinson’s King Longbeard

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For proof that it’s worth persevering with the eccentric tagging or non-labelling at the Internet Archive, look no further than this tremendous edition of King Longbeard (1898) by Barrington MacGregor which features some astonishing illustrations by Charles Robinson. The illustrator’s name isn’t attached to the book files, I found this by cross-referencing, something I’ve been doing a lot of in order to find other books about design history. I’ve written about Robinson’s work before but I was still taken aback by some of these drawings, a handful of which verge on outright Surrealism. The two monkeys peering at a giant head is one I’ve seen reproduced elsewhere, although I couldn’t say where, so it’s good to be able to find the source at last. I haven’t read through any of the stories so the explanation of that scene remains a mystery. If you want the solution then the book files are here (click the “All files: HTTP” link for the full set).

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Continue reading “Charles Robinson’s King Longbeard”

Robert Anning Bell’s Tempest

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British artist and designer Robert Anning Bell (1863–1933) illustrates Shakespeare in this 1901 edition at the Internet Archive and the work seemed to give him an excuse to embellish many of the pages with writhing mer-folk. His adaptation isn’t as striking as William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1914 but then few books are. In style Bell is closer to his contemporary Charles Ricketts with very open line work and no heavy black areas. Ricketts produced his own version of Ariel’s Song to Ferdinand for The Magazine of Art in 1895 but doesn’t seem to have illustrated much more of The Tempest as far as I’m aware, although his Vale Press did issue an edition of Shakespeare’s complete works. It hadn’t occurred to me before how few illustrated editions there are of The Tempest; this seems surprising given the fantastic nature of the story. It might be that illustrated plays have never sold so well despite there having been a number of illustrated Midsummer Night’s Dreams. I’d love to have seen Harry Clarke tackling Ariel and Caliban.

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Also at the Internet Archive is a 1902 edition of Shelley’s poems illustrated by Bell (above) and an 1897 edition of Keats in the same series (below). Great poetry doesn’t necessarily lend itself to illustration so it’s no surprise that these books are less interesting than the Shakespeare.

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Bell later reworked his illustration for Keats’s Ode to Psyche as a painting which he called Cupid’s Visit. I much prefer the drawing to the painting.

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Cupid’s Visit (1912).

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Charles Ricketts’ Hero and Leander
Another Midsummer Night
Arthur Rackham’s Midsummer Night’s Dream
The art of Charles Robinson, 1870–1937
William Heath Robinson’s Midsummer Night’s Dream