John Tenniel: The Original Alice Illustrator
By A Noise Within
February 6, 2020
Behind the scenes, our Alice in Wonderland production team is brimming with ideas for transforming A Noise Within into the topsy-turvy world of Wonderland. Fun costumes, colorful sets, and funky effects are all in the plans for this upcoming play.
So, where is the crew of Alice getting their inspiration from?
According to Director Stephanie Shroyer, the team is mainly drawing inspiration from the original illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
British artist John Tenniel is responsible for the eccentric collection of illustrations in the 1865 Alice in Wonderland. Born in 1820 London, England, Tenniel spent most of his career as a political cartoonist for the satirical Punch magazine. Though he started off with a formal education at the Royal Academy of Arts, Tenniel eventually dropped out in favor of self-teaching. He disliked the rigid guidelines for art at the academy, wanting his drawings to be more fanciful and exaggerated.
Tenniel drew the original Alice in Wonderland illustrations while working at Punch, sketching drafts in his spare time and sending them to Carroll. When approved, Tenniel would ink over his sketches and trace them onto blocks of wood. These blocks of wood were sent to carvers who would create wooden printing blocks based on Tenniel’s drawings. The carvings were mass produced and used in the commercial printing of the Alice in Wonderland books.
Tenniel’s original illustrations for Alice stand out as strange, surreal, and cartoonish. The exaggerated expressions and strangely proportioned bodies of Wonderland beings are silly and fun while his detailed line work adds a more surreal and bizarre tone. Though Tenniel produced thousands of cartoons, his best-known work is still the illustrations for the Alice books.
Just as the strange realism of Tenniel’s images cause us to question what reality we’re in, our designers are working on creating an immersive Wonderland for our Alice in Wonderland, just as strange and delightful as Carroll and Tenniel’s original vision. We encourage you to join us for this amazing journey into another world, unlike our own.