The Many Images of Alice in Wonderland

Alice and the Dodo meet in Wonderland. Illustration by John Tenniel

Submitted by Ramona Caponegro, curator of the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature

When you recall an image of Alice in Wonderland, which Alice do you see? Is the Alice in your mind the one above, from John Tenniel’s illustrations for the first published editions of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There in 1871? Or do you recollect an image from a later edition or a film, television, or stage adaptation? Few other literary characters have been depicted by so many different illustrators and visual storytellers. Their different emphases and interpretations of Alice and her adventures, as well as their use of different artistic techniques, styles, and mediums, have vastly expanded the possibilities of Carroll’s Wonderland.

While John Tenniel was the first artist to introduce Alice and the Wonderland inhabitants to the reading public, Carroll created his own sketches for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, which was first presented as a gift to its namesake in 1864 and then published in manuscript form for the public in 1886. According to popular accounts, Carroll spun the story of Alice’s journey to entertain his neighbor’s three young daughters during a rowing trip, and he wrote the story down at the urging of the middle daughter and his favorite, Alice Liddell.

Chris Riddell’s depiction of Alice (2020) resembles the story’s namesake, Alice Liddell
Chris Riddell’s depiction of Alice (2020) resembles the story’s namesake, Alice Liddell

The Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature hosted the Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s conference on November 4-6, 2022, and as part of the event, created three exhibitions to showcase over 300 works by Carroll in the collection. The Baldwin’s Carroll holdings primarily contain different editions of Alice, as well as works inspired by Alice. Some books feature older and now iconic Alice illustrations, such as those by Tenniel and Arthur Rackham.

Arthur Rackham's illustration of Alice and the animals swimming in the pool of tears.
Arthur Rackham’s illustration of Alice in “The Pool of Tears” (1907)

Other books feature more recent renditions of Alice, such as those by Riddell and Carly Gledhill. Gledhill illustrated the Bedtime Classics board book adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, designed to introduce the story to very young children. Through works new and old, Wonderland enthusiasts continue to welcome more images of Alice into their hearts and imaginations.

Alice and the Cheshire Cat by Carly Gledhill
Carly Gledhill’s illustration of Alice and the Cheshire Cat, from the board book adaptation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2019)

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