Alternative Alices (pt. 1)

Alice Liddell as a 'beggar-maid' in a photograph by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)
Alice Liddell as a ‘beggar-maid’ in a photograph by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

This post about Ralph Steadman’s illustrations for Alice in Wonderland, and a sentence within it referring to Salvador Dali’s Alice heliogravures  as ‘little known,’  (which I didn’t know they were) has inspired me to begin a mini-series of blog-posts about various artist’s representations of the little/big/Liddell queen of curiosity herself. As the White Queen knew, you need to go backwards to go forwards, and so that is what we’ll do…

Charles Dodgson (pen-name Lewis Carroll) took many photographs of his ‘child-friends,’ one of whom being Alice Liddell (pictured above). Dodgson’s subjects were often dressed in costume, and in the above example Alice Liddell, a middle class child, plays the role of a ‘beggar-maid’ in artfully ragged clothing which falls from her shoulders, her hand outstretched, bare feet awkwardly gaining purchase on the uneven ground, her gaze intense, almost accusatory. This Alice is not the girl that many people find in Carroll’s story, but is she really so different?

An illustration of Alice by Charles Dodgson from an 1886 facsimile of the original manuscript, 'Alice's Adventures Under Ground'.
An illustration of Alice by Charles Dodgson from an 1886 facsimile of the original manuscript, ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’.

When the first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865 at the height of the Victorian era’s cult of the child, the accompanying illustrations were provided by John Tenniel, and have proved to be incredibly influential on other artists as well as on later illustrators of the Alice stories; they are the default images that spring to mind when we think of Alice. Although not obviously similar in appearance to the brunette Liddell, Tenniel’s Alice (at least in the example below) more closely resembles the girl as illustrated (rather than photographed) by Dodgson in his original manuscript, all black and white and pouting, as the previously child-sized Alice grows too big to fit the page.

Tenniel's Alice
Tenniel’s Alice

The intention of this post is to act as an introduction for the ones to follow, so keep your peepers peeled and follow the blog if you fancy falling down the rabbit hole with some artists and a blogger, who knows where we’ll come out…

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