Tenniel’s Alice: the classic image of Carroll's creation

Work of Art

Tenniel’s Alice: the classic image of Carroll's creation

The popular image of the heroine of 'Alice in Wonderland' is eternally shaped by the first and greatest illustrator of the book, John Tenniel - though it seems this was a commission he did not enjoy very much.

Sir John Tenniel (1820 –1914) was an English illustrator, graphic humourist and political cartoonist best known for his illustrations to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871).

Born in London, Tenniel was a quiet and introverted person. One interesting aspect of his technique was that he refused to draw from life.

Lewis Carroll initially illustrated his story himself, but was persuaded to enlist the services of a professional. The author knew of Tenniel’s work from Punch magazine, and the two men had long discussions about the illustrations before Tenniel began.

The book became an instant best-seller, increasing Tenniel's fame. His drawings for both books have become some of the most famous literary illustrations.

After 1872, when the Carroll projects were finished, Tenniel largely abandoned literary illustration – mostly, it seems, because of the strain of working with Lewis Carroll!

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