Random Image: John Philip Wagner

A reader just shared this sensuous image of fairies.  For some reason there is a transposed version and I am told this one has the correct orientation.

John Philip Wagner - Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner – Fairy Sandcastles (Date Unknown)

John Philip Wagner was born in Philadelphia in 1943, got his Bachelor’s in Fine Arts at the Philadelphia College of Art and his Masters at the Maryland Institute College of Art. He also studied with David Hare and Dennis Leon. As a child, he plastered the walls of his elementary school with paintings of Egyptian pyramids and Roman ships and later studied the theater arts, painting, sculpture and printmaking. He resides in the American Southwest, having lived in New Mexico and then southern Colorado, adding Native American and Southwestern Art to his repertoire. While in Santa Fe, he created the first version of the puppet theater known as “Wagner Marionettes”. Since then, he spent much time entertaining children with his little players on string. In 2005, he was charged with sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, claiming that he touched her buttocks. Found on his computer were nude photos of the girl the artist says were used for reference. The mother denies giving her consent for these photographs. There is no information about a hearing or trial but, presumably, he agreed to a plea bargain as he was required to register as a sex offender. He no longer has his own website and sells his beautiful art through CafePress. Categories of interest include Fairy Art and Angel Art.

A Fairy Tale Subverted: Victoria Ying’s ‘Il Lupo’

One thing I love is stories, illustrations, films or what have you where the paradigm of the little girl in distress is turned on its head. These can be taken as feminist parables, or simply as a recognition of the fact that human beings often do not conform to expectations. Ying’s Il Lupo offers up a complete subversion of the familiar ‘little girl lost in the woods’ trope, and it does so in a rather surprising way. I am posting the first two pages here; to read the rest of it (it’s only ten pages long and a quick read), you must go here. Don’t miss this one—I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, and Ying really deserves the traffic at her site. Do yourself a favor and read this comic!

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 1)

Victoria Ying - Il Lupo (page 2)

Victoria Ying – Il Lupo (page 2)


Alexandre Lamotte: Langoureuse

Last April, I bought at Carré d’artistes a second watercolor painting by Alexandre Lamotte. Its French title Langoureuse means “languorous,” and indeed I find it soft and sensuous. It is one of my loveliest, and it hangs above my bed.

Compared to the previous one, it is slightly smaller (25cm×25cm instead of 36cm×36cm); as in the latter, there is a white cardboard inside the frame surrounding the picture, but given the smaller size of the painting, I have cropped the photograph to remove it. Without professional equipment, it is difficult to reproduce exactly the tones and colors of a watercolor having a weak color contrast. Of all my shots and computerized contrast enhancements, I chose the version that seems to me the most emotional. So the background looks a little bit bluish, while in reality it is beige.

Alexandre Lamotte - Langoureuse (2016)

Alexandre Lamotte – Langoureuse (2016)

At Carré d’artistes, paintings rotate between their various galleries. Indeed, the week after I bought Langoureuse, all unsold works by Lamotte had been removed. But the staff told me that he has now other projects beside painting, so instead of being sent to another gallery, his works were returned to him. And his webpage on their site has been reduced to his biography.  They removed the image of one of his paintings that appeared on it; however I had saved it, so I give it here.

Alexandre Lamotte - Carre-d'artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alexandre Lamotte – Carre-d’artistes website (title and year unknown)

Alexandre Lamotte

Last December I wanted to offer myself a painting as a Christmas (or New Year’s) gift, so I went into the gallery of Carré d’artistes, which sells paintings by contemporary artists at affordable prices; they propose only original artworks, never copies nor prints, in standardized formats at a fixed price for each size. My sight was attracted by small ones showing girls with strange eyes, painted by Alexandre Lamotte. I chose a 36cm × 36cm watercolor entitled Assoupie (dozing), with a black frame surrounding it. It is now hanging on a wall in my living room, above my computer. With sunny days coming back, I could photograph it without a flash:

Alexandre Lamotte - Assoupie (2015)

Alexandre Lamotte – Assoupie (2015)

Alexandre Lamotte is a French painter born on October 11th, 1976, in La Roche-sur-Yon in the Vendée department bordering the Atlantic Ocean. His biography on Carré d’artistes says:

Alexandre was born and raised in the Vendée region of France. From early childhood, drawing played a vital role in his activities. A creative child, he scribbled and sketched characters straight out of his imagination or inspired from comics.
During adolescence, he was fascinated by supernatural and fairy worlds, feeding on legends and stories and passionate about fantasy worlds. He discovered literature, film and illustration.
Gradually, his drawings became coloured and painting made its appearance in Alexandre’s creations. He decided to make art his career and began art studies, which he quickly left, preferring to teach himself. At the age of 20, he met Jacques Bessonnet, a stone sculptor, who shared his passion and his profession. Alexandre extended his skills and added sculpture to his pictorial creations.
A few years later, in the same studio, he met other artists and embarked on the adventure of the association “Village of Painters”. Each year, from April to October, the village of Vouvant (Vendée) becomes a place for pictorial events, exhibitions and artists’ workshops.
Alexandre works principally with paint in black and white. A game of light and shadow, both poetic and Gothic, appears in his works. He blurs the colours and creates graphic lines, traces of his childhood.
Alexandre is inspired by legends, fables and stories, as well as science fiction. He feeds on topics such as women and children, which are very present in his works.
He seeks a form of escapism through imagination: dreams begin when his spirit is freed.

Many of his paintings evoke dreamlike memories of the magical world of childhood, and this impression is enhanced by his frequent use of grey or foggy backgrounds, as one can see in the following two works from his web gallery for Artistes pour l’Espoir:

Alexandre Lamotte - (work exhibited at Artistes pour l'Espoir) (1)

Alexandre Lamotte – (work exhibited at Artistes pour l’Espoir) (1)

Alexandre Lamotte - (work exhibited at Artistes pour l'Espoir) (2)

Alexandre Lamotte – (work exhibited at Artistes pour l’Espoir) (2)

Lamotte painted many women who unmistakably look adult. But as he started to make small format paintings for Carré d’artistes, his female subjects began to change, becoming “petite women” or young girls, and their eyes acquired a strange fairy-like look, as can be seen in a sample of such works on his website. Below I show one of these paintings, currently on sale:

Alexandre Lamotte - (work for Carré d'Artistes)

Alexandre Lamotte – Baies Roses (2015)

Here are two samples of “works in progress” from a his blog, one sees how the girls look ever younger:

Alexandre Lamotte - (works in progress)

Alexandre Lamotte – (works in progress)

Alexandre Lamotte - "encres" (works in progress)

Alexandre Lamotte – “encres” (works in progress)

Finally I show a picture of the artist at work, from the information leaflet by Carré d’artistes:

(Unknown photographer) - Alexandre Lamotte at work

(Unknown photographer) – Alexandre Lamotte at work

Biographical information on Alexandre Lamotte (in French) and further samples of his work can be found in the following links:

Most images shown here belong to the artist and are taken from his websites. Do not use them publicly without citing their authorship and origin (or, for commercial purposes, without the express permission of the artist).

Girls as Fairies

Several years ago I visited a medieval fair. It was a modern American version of medieval Europe, censored to conform with modern American concepts of decorum. Therefore, I was surprised to see a booth selling what at first glance appeared to be figurines of nude girls. Then I saw they were not really figures of human girls; each had a tiny pair of gauzy wings. They were actually intended to represent nude fairies. Was it really necessary to put wings on the nude girls and call them fairies?

In my opinion, it was. I would not have been offended by figurines of human girls, but I would have been intimidated about entering their booth and perusing their wares if the figures were displayed as human girls, because I thought others would think it was improper. I had the strange feeling that the other people there felt the same. I felt that nobody who browsed through the booth was offended by nudity, but feared others would look down on them if the figurines represented girls instead of fairies.

I did not get one of the figurines, but I have found other fairy figurines, including this one, at the Mollamari web page.

Mollamari - Young Fairy (2015)

Mollamari – Young Fairy (2015)

Note the attention to detail on this figure. It looks like a realistic figure of a girl, and it may not be immediately apparent why it is a fairy. You can see how the figure was made here, and you will see that the ears—not visible on the completed figure because they are covered by hair—are pointed. If the feature that makes the figure a fairy instead of a girl is not easily seen, is it still better to make it a fairy? In my opinion the answer is yes, but I cannot explain why. This is not logical, but nothing about fairies is logical.

Fairies, elves, and leprechauns are known to occultists as “elementals”, spiritual creatures that are neither human souls nor angels. Some UFO researchers believe that flying saucers are fairies that manifest themselves in an updated form, but still play the same irrational, centuries-old pranks. Although some fairies were thought to be of diminutive size as far back as Gervase of Tilbury (1211), most fairies prior to the 17th century were thought to look much like humans. The de Lusignan family of France, in fact, claims descent from a fairy, Mélusine, who for six days of the week looked exactly like a human. According to Richard A. Schindler, Associate Professor of Art Allegheny College, fairies in art became very popular in the mid-nineteenth century, in part as a contrivance to permit nudity that was becoming unacceptable in paintings of humans. This view is shared by Terri Windling, artist, author, and founder of Endicott Studios, and also by Christopher Wood of the Antique Collectors Club.

It is my personal observation that most of the fairy paintings from the 1860s or earlier portray fairies as adults. Later artists are more likely to paint fairies as juveniles.

Luis Ricardo Falero (1851–1896), was a painter who specialized in fantasy subjects. Most of his paintings are of women over the age limit for Pigtails, but the butterfly girl in this painting appears to be adolescent. Although the fairy is nude, fairy art by this time was not merely a contrivance for nudity. The atmosphere of fantasy and magic is to me the main attraction of this painting. The girl, the butterfly wings, and the flowers, considered separately, are realistic. When these elements are combined in the painting, we go from realism to pure fantasy.


Luis Falero – The Butterfly (1893)

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888–1959) illustrated fairies for children’s books in the early 20th century. Fairy art was still very popular, but was considered especially appropriate for children. I like the facial expressions on the fairies in this painting of a formal procession.


Margaret Tarrant – Lady’s Smock Fairies (c1920)

Cicely Mary Barker (1895–1973) was another popular illustrator of children’s books. The following are from her series of Fairy Flowers of the Spring.

Cicely Mary Barker - Bluebell Fairy (1923)

Cicely Mary Barker – Bluebell Fairy (1923)


Cicely Mary Barker – Daffodil Fairy (1923)

Ida Outhwaite (1888–1960) is the third of the early 20th century illustrators I will include in this post. I did not realize until after I started to gather information that there were so many very good artists who specialized in fairies. These two illustrations are typical of her work.

Ida Outhwaite - When the Fairies Came (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite – When the Fairies Came (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite - Wild Geranium (c1920)

Ida Outhwaite – Wild Geranium (c1920)

Brian Froud (born 1947) is one of the most famous contemporary British fairy artists. His fairies appear to be rustic and mischievous. I like the natural feeling of his paintings. Here are two samples.

Brian Froud - Cover Illustration from Faeries (1979)

Brian Froud – Cover Illustration from Faeries (1979)

Brian Froud - Illustration from Good Faeries / Bad Faeries (1998)

Brian Froud – Illustration from Good Faeries / Bad Faeries (1998)

Erlé Ferronnière (born 1971) is a French artist. His favorite themes are mythology and legend. I think his work is great. It is hard for me to explain why; there is just something magical and otherworldly about his art. The first example of his is this cute butterfly girl.

Erlé Ferronnière - (title and date not known)

Erlé Ferronnière – (title and date not known)

The next is my favorite Ferronnière. Most of the fairies are the wrong age and sex for Pigtails in Paint, but there is a butterfly girl in the lead and a dragonfly girl overhead. Are the fairies kidnapping a human baby? If they are, the baby does not seem to mind. The more I view this painting, the more it draws me into the strange world of fairy.

Erlé Ferronnière - (title and date not known)

Erlé Ferronnière – (title and date not known)

The last artist I want to include is a Japanese artist who uses the name Syuceui. His work is posted on pixiv. You must register on pixiv to view any drawings that feature nudity, but registration is free. Syuceui has realistically drawn girls, but with surrealistic elements such as wings and floating in air. I have included three of his works. All are simply titled Fairy. The last is my favorite. I like the expression on the fairy’s face; it appears she enjoys posing for her portrait. I would like the drawing if it were of a human girl too. If you look at it logically, it essentially is a drawing of a girl. The only things that indicate she is not human are a pair of wings behind her and a frog and mushroom which, if drawn to scale, indicate her size. That is enough to remove her from our world, and put her in the magic and illogical realm of fairy.

Syuceui - Fairy (2015)

Syuceui – Fairy (2015) (1)


Syuceui – Fairy (2015) (2)

Syuceui Fairy (2015)

Syuceui Fairy (2015) (3)


Cave Girl: Jean M. Auel’s ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’

With my first post I’m going to discuss the book The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel, as well as the movie directed by Michael Chapman. As is usually the case, the book was far more engaging and meaningful than the movie, so I will take the plot points from the book and use various screenshots from the movie. The latter uses three actresses to represent the various stages of Ayla’s life; Emma Floria is 5-year-old Ayla, Nicole Eggert plays Ayla at about 11 or 12, and Daryl Hannah is adolescent/adult Ayla. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t accurately depict Ayla’s timeline. She is under eighteen for the whole of the book, and is 14 at its conclusion. Within that span of time she experiences incredible hardship, but what she learns in those 9 years will change everything forever. 

Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (1)

Ayla is a Cro-Magnon girl (early Homo sapiens sapiens), distant ancestors to our forbears and us. Mog-ur—known to her affectionately by his true name, Creb—is a Neanderthal Man (H. neanderthalensis) and the most powerful magician known to his Clan. They share the same ancestor but are fated to much different paths. Creb and all his people are about to die in one of the most questionable extinctions known to modern science, while Ayla’s kind are on their way to becoming the most populous and (relatively) successful  mammals to have ever existed. Nobody seems to know just what happened there, and Jean M. Auel, while aiming to write fiction based on facts, did not specify how her Neanderthal clan were to become extinct either.

Ayla is taken in by the medicine woman of the Neanderthal clan after an earthquake kills Ayla’s family and forces the Clan out of their cave, their only home. The girl is just five years old, but nevertheless survives the attack of a cave lion (the grass lion’s huge, hungry ancestor) and passes out presumably from shock and pain. She is found by the Clan’s medicine woman, Iza on their search for a new cave home.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (2)

Iza is sibling to the Clan leader, Brun, so he is given to allow Iza to keep and care for the girl. The young girl eventually trains with Iza to become a medicine woman and is quite proficient with flowers and herbs. She also gets in the habit of using the excuse that she is looking for plants for Iza so that she can wander around by herself in the wilderness, thinking and playing in solitude.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (3)


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (4)


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (5)

Ayla’s presence disturbs the others, and their treatment towards her differences profoundly impacts her development. She is especially terrible with following their strict social customs, which include the docility and submission of women as virtues—instead of the low, shuffling walk of Clan women, Ayla is gifted with long, thin legs and is taller than most of the men by age 12. The discomfort she causes is very much about the way that she looks in comparison to the rest of the clan as well. Throughout the book she is repeatedly referred to as ugly by the other members, even by her sweet Mog-ur, and it is assumed she will never acquire a partner. They have no qualms about speaking these things in front of her either.

“He visualized the tall, skinny child, straight arms and legs, flat face with a large, bulging forehead, pale and washed out; even her eyes were too light. She will be an ugly woman, Mog-ur thought honestly. What man is likely to want her anyway?”  Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear


“… The skull of Cro-Magnon 1 does show traits that are unique to modern humans, including the tall, rounded skull with a near vertical forehead. A large brow ridge no longer tops the eye sockets and there is no prominent prognathism of the face and jaw [as compared to H. neanderthalensis].”  Smithsonian Natural Museum of History

Part of the reason why she is regarded with this repulsion is because her childhood seems to last much longer than what is regular for the Clan. Their lifespans average 30 years and the children are usually ready for their mating ceremonies at age 7 or 8. They start to wonder when she doesn’t seem to be developing the regular features of a woman, but it is precisely her childish figure which enables her to gain the skills that will eventually allow her to become independent. In this way and many others, Ayla becomes a symbol of fate for Creb, but to the others she is profoundly mysterious, profoundly wrong.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (6)

Built mainly for storing large quantities of data as memories, the Neanderthal Clan have minds that can peer thousands of years into the past with a process as simple as contemplating the natural life that surrounds them. (This is, of course, speculation by the author. You can do the research for yourself but there is some level of validity to her fictional fantasies.) The Clan can see eons behind them, all the way back to the dawn of life, with the help of a divine flower employed by Mog-ur; Datura stramonium or Angel’s Trumpet—Devil’s trumpet, if you’d like to play your hand on the other side of the paradox. But they can’t think in numerical terms past 3, and Mog-ur, whose mind is significantly more attuned to the abstract, the extra-sensory, can’t pass 20.  Ayla, however, is on her way to multiplying single-digit numbers at the age of five. She so astounds Creb with her mind that he becomes enthralled with her instantly, falling in love with her confidence and intelligence the first year of her stay.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (7)

Despite the rigidity of the Clan’s ways, especially in their expectation of docile behavior from the women, Creb gives Ayla some slack, often only scolding her for behavior that other men would have punished with physical violence. Physical affection is kept at a minimum between the two, but Ayla trusts in the old man’s love.

Her first year with the clan is arduous, as she is forced by her adoptive family and the pressures of the group to conform to their patriarchal expectations. However unexpectedly, she does seem to grow with a strength and confidence that is rare even for males in the Clan, and this brings about the unlucky attention of the leader’s son, Broud, who is to become her unfailing tormentor.

The boy is arrogant and narcissistic, unable to let go of Ayla’s unwomanly confidence and skill set. As Broud becomes a man and more assured in his dominance, his torments too become progressively more vicious and physically violent. But she has a secret. Ayla has learned to hunt, eventually becoming more proficient with a sling than the Clan’s own sling master. Broud’s attacks no longer bother her—in fact, she eggs him on, carrying her secret skill as a totem of confidence. Soon after her first menses at age 10, however, her secret is discovered when she kills a hyena to save a Clan child from death. She is given a comparatively mild punishment, considering it is strictly forbidden for a woman to even touch a weapon—a transgression which is punishable by death—and afterwards is startlingly anointed with the title of Woman Who Hunts by Mog-ur and the leader. From then on she is given the freedom to hunt in the open, using only her sling, but that’s good enough for her. Ayla’s confidence soars, and eventually the Clan begins to accept her, even respect her. Everyone except for Broud, that is.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (8)

Because of his unceasing abuse, Ayla has learned to dissociate from Broud, obeying him but no longer with any hint of emotional investment. But her pain is what makes Broud happy and he is frustrated with her lack of distress. Again shortly after her first menses, Broud comes across Ayla gathering herbs for Iza away from the cave and rapes her. Because of Clan customs, any male is allowed to have intercourse with any female he wishes, even if she belongs to another man, even if she isn’t yet a woman—but most Clan men feel it beneath their dignity to have intercourse with a child.  All a man has to do is give a signal, and the female will “assume the position”. Because of this, the Clan doesn’t protest when Broud takes up the habit of raping her daily, sometimes multiple times a day. The women are confused as to why she is screaming out as if in pain, but the ordeal is seen as some kind of odd phase for Broud, considering Ayla is so unattractive and Broud has a beautiful woman of his own. Iza and Creb notice her crippling depression, but they don’t know what to attribute it to and so have no way of helping her.

A redeeming feature of the Clan is that they don’t stigmatize sexuality in childhood.

“In the Clan, the mating of two people was entirely a spiritual affair, begun with a declaration to the whole clan but consummated by a secret rite that included only the men. In this primitive society, sex was as natural and unrestrained as sleeping or eating. Children learned, as they learned other skills and customs, by observing adults, and they played at intercourse as they mimicked other activities from a young age. Often a boy who reached puberty, but had not yet made his first kill and existed in limbo between child and adult, penetrated a girl child even before she reached her menarche.”  Jean M. Auel, The Clan of the Cave Bear

However, they don’t necessarily know how sex works either. They believe in animal spirits called Totems; assigned to every member of the clan, they protect each person and bring luck or misfortune depending on how the clan behaves. They believe these spirits are rooted themselves in tradition as well, fearing anger from their otherworldly protectors if they stray from long-practiced rites and customs. Male totems are usually “stronger” than female totems (for example, a female totem might be a beaver where a male totem may be a wild boar), and it is believed that pregnancy is caused by the male totem “defeating” the female totem by some undefined spiritual means. A woman’s menses is similarly caused by the woman’s totem defeating a man’s totem. Ayla herself has the strongest totem in the tribe, the massive Cave Lion, assigned by Mog-ur when he contemplates the parallel scars on her legs caused by the cave lion attack when she was just five years old. Throughout her years, Ayla receives assistance and protection from the Cave Lion, noticed only by Mog-ur (as such a strong totem for a little girl confuses the rest of the Clan).


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (9)

Shockingly enough (or maybe not), Ayla soon discovers she is pregnant—and is ecstatic. She had been told all throughout her childhood that she would never bear children, would never mate or find a partner due to her incredibly powerful totem and her ugliness. She forms no connection at first between Broud’s sexual abuse and the pregnancy, but it isn’t long before she pieces it together—becoming the first of the tribe to ever do so. She loves her baby all the same, and I believe the child represents for her a reclamation of her femininity, stripped from her at a young age simply because she didn’t fit the Clan’s idea of what it meant to be female. Her first child, born to her at age 11, is therefore a symbol of her unfailing femininity in spite of her masculine strength. The child is born as a hybrid between the two human species and is seen by the Clan as being deformed, but to Ayla she sees only unity—the mergence of her spirit with that of the Clan in a way she could never accomplish herself. In the end, Broud gives her the one thing she thought she would never get.

An interesting aspect of the plot involves the Clan Gathering, which I will not go into too much detail about. A ritual is held at the gathering in which Ayla must act as medicine woman and distribute the Datura decoction to the females of hers and other Clans. She takes some as well, perhaps too much, but when the women begin their erotic dance, Ayla is pulled by some force to Creb’s ceremony involving the Mog-urs and acolytes of other clans. This is a ceremony not only restricted from female participation, but male participation as well. It is only for the shamans. She learns some interesting things from Creb here and I will not say anything else about it because it’s honestly an astounding scene that should be read in its original form to be appreciated.

download (1)

Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (10)

I find the contrasts between her masculine and feminine aspects quite interesting. Rather, I find it interesting in that she’s not really masculine or feminine. The definitions attached to this duality are entirely subjective, seemingly dependent on the social context in which they are used. It is true that most societies throughout human history seem to have considered hunting an entirely masculine activity, but there are definitely exceptions as with all things. From the Clan’s perspective, she is almost wholly masculine; but then, she bears life, she experiences the cycles of her menses, and she develops a close relationship with plants—all are traits considered feminine by the Clan and many real-life human societies. If you read up on mythology you’ll have heard of Artemis, goddess of hunting, virginity, and protector of nature.

Considering Ayla is a child for most of the book (in the sense that she is under 18), it’s interesting to think of what femininity means in the context of little girls and in the context of Ayla’s role in the Clan. Children are unaware of themselves in a very genuine way, resulting in a sort of freedom that most adults can’t seem to experience. Little girls are themselves a kind of nymph or faerie—feminine, yes, but also masculine in the most surprising and mischievous of ways. They are dynamic, dual. I can say from experience that emerging as a woman from a state of girlhood is entirely frightening. All of a sudden it’s not cute to climb trees in a dress, or acceptable to sit with your legs very obviously open, or to do all sorts of things I was able to do without inhibition as a young girl, without even a thought as to how it was perceived by others. Eventually it became time to grow up, time to accept only one half of the duality while ignoring the other as if it didn’t exist. Ayla is so fascinating because she never seems to experience this horrible shift. Her unheard-of status as Woman Who Hunts combined with her other differences mean that the Clan is constantly in a state of awe or confusion about her, allowing Ayla to dissociate from Clan customs and to walk into herself as she wholly is. She grows up without the notion that she is a child turning into an adult. I’m not sure about the other books, but by the end of The Clan of the Cave Bear, Ayla is a woman and child all in one, and she is also neither—she’s Ayla.


Michael Chapman, John Sayles and Jean M. Auel – The Clan of the Cave Bear (1986) (11)

By the way, I still climb trees in dresses, ha!


Margaret O’Brien

Corporate Mentality and the Invisible Artist

As I have said many times, I am an avid reader of non-fiction. I have noticed over the years that people or organizations with certain political ideas tend to discuss issues in a specific way based on a set of assumed principles. It sometimes feels like they are following a script and, in some cases, they may be. One of the most pronounced examples is the way corporations communicate to the public, most commonly called Public Relations (PR). The trouble with the corporation—expressed very well in the film The Corporation—is that no matter what service or product it purports to provide, its goal is to maximize profit for its shareholders. Naturally, these companies and conglomerates do not want the public to think in this way because it interferes with sales. Because of this, the most important department in any corporate entity is its PR department. It must somehow create the impression that it is serving its customers and generally offering something for the common good.

Artists are a necessary part of advertising and perhaps in the design of a product as well. However, because a company does not want the public to be privy to its use of labor—stories of child labor and virtual slave wages is ubiquitous—they must play down the value of that labor while convincing the public that they are good corporate citizens. Money is the bottom line and so even those with the needed talent are regarded as laborers; artists and craftsman in particular are usually not given the credit for the work they would if the companies had to follow some kind of guild rules.

A case in point is this charming advertising promoting Domini Social Investments.

(Unidentified Artist) - Domini Funds Promotional Art (2014)

(Unidentified Artist) – Domini Funds Promotional Art (2014)

This fund manager promotes itself as a responsible business by refusing to invest in stocks (or other financial products) involving weapons production or some other distasteful industry. If the PR is to be believed, people can feel good doing business with them because no harm is being done. This is naive since many large corporations have entangled relationships others making this almost impossible and what about this company’s own behavior? This work of art is not credited and there has been no reply to repeated requests for more information on the history of this piece.

I did get a response in the second case. I had seen these trading cards on sale on the web—featuring girls, naturally—and was thinking of doing a short post.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 136

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 136

Since the images were of low quality, I had hoped to convince the company, Forever Clover®, to not only identify the artists who made these images, but send some higher-quality images for use in this post. Following a classic corporate script, I received an email expressly forbidding me to use their artwork or even link to their site. These threatening and lawyerly letters are commonplace and are made to intimidate people who are not well-versed in the law. I assure you that we have every right under international copyright law to present a sample of their product and criticize their company.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 194

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 194

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 191

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 191

(No Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 185

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 185

These trading cards come in a variety of themes; some are embossed and some are embedded with glitter. According to their website, Forever Clover was established in 2011 and celebrates young girls and their friendships. It started with swap cards for girls (age 4–11) to collect and trade and has expanded into novels and activity books. Their PR involves a blog and other forms of interaction meant to show an interest in the girls’ lives and promote brand loyalty. You can read more about their mandate here, but you will find they express a very superficial and saccharine sentiment clothed as wholesome values.

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 158

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 158

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 171

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 171

(Unidentified Artist) - Forever Clover Swap Card No. 88

(Unidentified Artist) – Forever Clover Swap Card No. 88

It should also be noted that whoever these artists are, they are not the copyright holders; the companies are.

S.A.: The Disney Girls

As mentioned in my very first Pigtails post, I spent my young adulthood in the U.S. Army. And even though I lived under the rigors of military discipline, it was a time of relative freedom for me. My platoon sergeant had a huge collection of Disney films which he brought so we would have something to watch while we were living temporary barracks. Like most people, I assumed cartoons were just for kids and were not very sophisticated, but these Disney shorts had a humor that could only be appreciated by adults. Walt Disney was not producing films for kids, he was producing them for himself. I became fascinated with the evolution of the Disney Studios and read everything I could get my hands on. I read in one account that Disney wanted to prove that a full-length animated feature was possible and would be respected by the general public. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the first of these efforts. It was important to him that the characters be believable and not just caricatures. To that end, he challenged his animators to make every effort to pay careful attention to detail and find a way to give the heroes and heroines sex appeal. Of course, in those days it was not acceptable to say the word “sex” in mixed company and thus when referring to this mandate, they would say “S.A.” which today seems an amusing constraint. This post is dedicated to those early Disney girls with S.A. No more passing off Mickey Mouse with a bow, skirt and pasted eyelashes and calling him Minnie!

The interesting thing about studying Disney animation is that the Disney Studios were pioneers and one can watch the evolution of that medium. Early attempts did manage to make their lead female characters pretty, but not especially alluring. Probably the first characters to fit this description were the centaurettes from Fantasia (1940). They are fantasy creatures but some attempt was made to make them look “right”. Here is a page with a few concept designs.

Disney Studios - Concept Designs (late 1930s)

Disney Studios – Concept Designs (late 1930s)

After Disney approved the concepts, the animators would make a more fine-tuned sketch that showed the final appearance of the character. Since this will be used to produce the final animation, the placement of the dark lines is very deliberate.

Disney Studios - Final Outline Sketch (c1940)

Disney Studios – Final Outline Sketch (c1940)

Then there are animators who draw the final cleaned-up sketch, in-betweeners who draw the intermediate motions of the characters and a team of women who color the cells.

Edit: For a comprehensive list of the artists who worked on ‘The Rite of Spring’ segment of Fantasia, please refer to this page. – Pip

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (1)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (1)

I was surprised at the popularity of this iconic pose and this creature is now a figurine.

Centaurette Figurine

Centaurette Figurine

Part of the fun of the early Disney work is the little bits of “business” he has each character do and there are a lot of recurring gags and play on stereotypes that are amusing to an adult audience. One of Disney’s other early mandates is that his characters have distinct personalities. After the centaurettes groom themselves, they get all worked up about the boys coming for a visit so they can all frolick together, but one poor centaurette is without a match until she is discovered by one of the remaining boys.

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (2)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (2)

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (3)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (3)

There are even zebra centaurettes accompanying a Dionysian character—all of this to the music of Beethoven’s 6th “Pastoral” Symphony.

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (4)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (4)

Animators may have been talented artists, but that did not mean they were well-educated on anatomy. About the time of the release of Fantasia, Disney had animals brought in as models for them to study and the first film to show this off was Bambi (1942). From then on, even female animal characters had a certain feminine allure: Bambi’s mother and Faline (Bambi), Lady (Lady and the Tramp (1955)) and Perdita (101 Dalmatians (1961)).

Once the ancient Greeks learned to make large statues from the Egyptians, they then pushed for anatomical perfection. The 1950s were an analogous time for the Disney Studios by which time they routinely accomplished this level of believability. Also, until then, any female leads were young women, not really girls, so we see our first two examples voiced by the same girl, Kathryn Beaumont.

Disney Studios - Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Disney Studios – Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Disney Studios - Peter Pan (1953)

Disney Studios – Peter Pan (1953)

Of course in Peter Pan we also get Tinkerbell, the quintessential animated sex pot who creates some mischief because she is jealous about all the attention Peter is giving Wendy.

Disney Studios - Peter Pan (animation cell)

Disney Studios – Peter Pan (animation cell)

After artists become accustomed to producing anatomical accuracy, they want to play with the forms and so in the late 1950s and 1960s we begin to see an angular style in Sleeping Beauty (1957), 101 Dalmatians and Jungle Book (1967) which was in production when Walt Disney died.

Disney Studios - Jungle Book (1967)

Disney Studios – Jungle Book (1967)

After that, there was a period when the studios attempted to anticipate Disney’s wishes: The ArtistoCats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973) were in the concept stages. Once business interests got control of the studio—changing the name to The Disney Company—animated features were produced more rapidly, but with a more formulaic system that established schedules and deadlines.

Alice: A Personal View

It was my intent after publishing the Graham Ovenden post to then move on to his other relevant work. However, while considering his book, Illustrators of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” (1972), I was urged to cover a much more comprehensive volume recently published, Illustrating Alice: An international selection of illustrated editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass published by Artists’ Choice Editions in 2013.

I wanted to call this post ‘The Definitive Alice’ but the book itself admonishes its readers from regarding it that way. It is a fair argument because, after all, it only covers illustration despite including a lot of discussion about the stories and their interpretation. And instead of trying to be thorough in covering all views, we get a wonderful spectrum of personal anecdotes and revelations from artists, collectors and other lovers of Alice lore including the more prominent members of Lewis Carroll societies around the world.

Given that a definitive book on Lewis Carroll’s two stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), would require a multi-volume encyclopedia, Illustrating Alice does remarkably well, bringing out many imaginative key points. The Alice stories (and their ethnic adaptations) have been published in over 100 languages and, in proportion to total word count, are more often quoted in published works than the plays of Shakespeare. Illustrating Alice has an interesting organization. First, some discussion of Alice in different countries is offered, then numerous living illustrators were asked to discuss their experiences and views. There is also some discussion of film adaptations. For serious Alice lovers, this book is an important reference and I offer a more detailed outline of the contents of the book at the end of this post.

With respect to offering fresh interpretations of Alice, it should be recognized how challenging it has been to see past Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations in the original books and to fruitfully psychoanalyze Carroll’s original intent.

Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Sir John Tenniel - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Sir John Tenniel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Due to copyright rules, new versions of Wonderland could not be produced by other publishers until 1907 (and Looking-Glass until 1946). In the U.K. there were already 30 new editions by the end of 1908. Millicent Sowerby had the distinction of being the first to have her illustrations published. Publishers would gradually compete to produce the most opulent editions. W.H. Walker was the first to include scenes not given in the original Tenniel and Harry Rountree had the record for the most color images published, 92. Two of the most popular editions were by Raphael Tuck: one based on early Mabel Lucie Attwell work in 1910 and then a more innovative approach in 1921 based on the work of A.L. Bowley giving us the first examples of pop-ups and a panorama scene with slots to place each of the supplied cut-out characters.

Arthur Rackham - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Arthur Rackham – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

During World War II, there was a dearth of publishing because of paper rationing. One notable exception was the work of Mervyn Peake. He produced illustrations for both Alice books which were first published in Sweden in 1946, then in the U.K. in 1954. His images, considered among the best by many experts, were modeled after a neighbor girl named Caroline Lucas who, he believed, had just the right qualities. The high regard for his work is exemplified by a quote from Graham Greene, “You are the first person who has been able to illustrate the book since Tenniel.” This is even more remarkable when one considers that Greene was generally opposed to the idea of illustrating great literature at all. The work has since appeared in many editions while the original art deteriorated from neglect.

Libanus Press was later commissioned by Bloomsbury Publishing to take up the challenge of scanning the original drawings and putting in about 240 hours of computer work to restore them. The results were published in 2001 and shortly thereafter Libanus published them with the title Peake’s Alice in actual size each accompanied by an appropriate quote. One of the first artists to break through the Tenniel paradigm was Ralph Steadman in 1967, with a freer and highly political take on the story. In the 1970s, Alice became a kind of poster child for the Ruralists, symbolizing an appeal to nature. The most notable of those were by Peter Blake and Graham Ovenden—the Ovenden works being bound into a volume with only 10 copies in existence. This incredible range of production is indicative of the fact that illustration seems to be the last art form that can be produced without need of government grants or powerful patronage.

Mervyn Peake - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

Mervyn Peake – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

In the early days in France only the images of Tenniel and Arthur Rackham were seen. In 1930, the first native illustrator, Marie Laurencin, was published in a limited edition (790) with six colored lithographs. As Alice was assimilated into other cultures, her character would change. Henry Morin (1935) drew an Alice who seemed ill at ease while André Pécoud (1935) portrayed a more mischievous Alice who took delight in her adventures. Nicole Claveloux’s (1974) work is considered a watershed of modern French illustration offering a non-conformist Alice and a special affinity for the animal characters in the story. Her plate with the flamingos became so iconic that it was the basis of a postage stamp in Czechoslovakia. Jean-Claude Silbermann (2002) gives a highly surreal interpretation while Pat Andrea (2006), a noted artist of erotic women, necessarily makes Alice a young woman.

Marie Laurencin - Alice in Wonderland (1930)

Marie Laurencin – Alice in Wonderland (1930)

The first Alice stories in Italy were adapted by Teodorico Pietrocòla-Rossetti—nephew of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and a friend of Carroll—in 1872. This edition was not well-received. The first book featuring an Italian illustrator, Riccardo Salvadori, came out in 1913. Because there was not an established culture of children’s literature in Italy yet, Salvadori’s work, imitating that of Arthur Rackham, meant that this genre was strongly influenced by the Anglo-Saxon imagination. In 1938, under fascism, Carroll’s Alice books were banned. Any publisher wishing to publish had to follow certain guidelines. Perhaps the most famous version was illustrated by Enrico Mercatali (1938) who introduced an older dark-haired girl consistent with the appearance of local girls. In the 1950s, the blond Alice reappeared, partly as a backlash to fascist rules and partly because of the popularity of Disney’s animated film in 1951. In the 1970s, Gianni Celati (1978) used Alice as a symbol of counter-culture and Antonio D’Agostini (c1975) gave a psychedelic interpretation which fits well with Carroll’s fantastical imagery.

Enrico Mercatali - (Exact title unknown) (1938)

Enrico Mercatali – (Exact title unknown) (1938)

During the publishing of the Alice stories, the United States was generally regarded as an ugly stepchild of Britain and something of a rogue nation when it came to respecting copyright. A print run regarded as unsatisfactory by Carroll was sent to the U.S. in 1865. At least half a dozen companies sold pirated editions between 1892 and 1907 before the official expiration of copyright. They all used the Tenniel illustrations but would hire an illustrator for the cover and maybe a frontispiece. Interestingly, the Thomas Crowell edition in 1893 included the first instance of an Alice in a blue frock which became established as her signature color; all images and merchandise approved by Carroll had required the girl to be in a corn-yellow dress. A few publishers did use original work by American illustrators. Blanche McManus was distinguished as the first in 1899 for her husband’s company and Peter Newell in 1901, whose characters display an amusing array of facial expressions and interactions. M.L. Kirk’s rendition in 1904 is somewhat conventional but uses the correct color for Alice’s dress.

After the copyright expired, the floodgates opened and a number of notable American illustrators had their work published including Bessie Pease Gutmann (1907), a single illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith (1923) and Willy Pogány (1929). Walt Disney was obsessed with the story of Alice for a long time, experimenting with various treatments and designs until finally producing the somewhat unsatisfactory film in 1951. The film’s popularity had a stifling effect on innovation in the following decades. David Hall’s paintings and drawings for Disney in the 1930s did finally see the light of day in 1986 and Mary Blair’s concept art for the original film was the basis for a 2008 book.

Perhaps the first satisfactory book after this stagnant period was published in 1982, illustrated by Barry Moser and intended for adult readers. He may have been a bit gun shy of portraying the now iconic Alice and she appears only in the first and last pages as though the reader were observing things from her point of view. A number of prolific and imaginative artists have worked on Alice since then and are really too numerous to name here. An interesting historical note is that the first comic book, a distinctly American art form, was published in 1929 by George Delacorte whose fortune was later used to fund the statue in Central Park. To date, the only edition to be illustrated by a Canadian, George Walker, was produced in 1988 and may also have the distinction of being the last to be set by hand.

Bessie Pease Gutmann - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Camille Rose Garcia - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

Camille Rose Garcia – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

U.S. fans and collectors of Lewis Carroll paraphernalia contributed substantially to the scholarship and preservation of the author’s work. Lessing J. Rosenwald donated a handwritten and self-illustrated manuscript of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures under Ground to the Library of the British Museum in 1948 which can now be viewed in its entirety online.  A copy of ‘The Wasp in a Wig’, a lost chapter to Looking-Glass, was discovered and published in 1972 and Morton Cohen’s biographical research on Carroll is considered to be definitive.

Alice was first introduced to Brazil by Monterio Lobato in the early 1930s using original illustrators (Tenniel and Bowley). He started with an illustration of a fantasy world including Wonderland, Neverland etc. and one from his own stories which translates as “Yellow Woodpecker Ranch”. A number of artists have used collages made from everyday materials to add cultural texture to their work. An example is Helena de Barros (Helenbar) who sewed her own dress and incorporated herself in her images.

Helenbar - A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

Helenbar – A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

The popularity of Alice in Japan cannot be understated. In fact, the Alice books and associated merchandise are now so popular that it could be said to be an industry in and of itself. The first Japanese illustrator was Shotaro Kawabata (1908). Kawabata imitated Tenniel somewhat but substituted Japanese everyday articles for Europeans ones. Often these treatments were introduced in magazine form rather than stand-alone books. The benefit seems to be that new artists, both writers and illustrators, have an easier way to become established and recognized.

Tsubakibana “Chinka” Yoshimura (1911) was probably the first to illustrate Alice using strictly Japanese patterns, techniques and composition principles. The early portrayal of Alice had a curious character. Because, in Japanese culture, girls have no real transition from childhood to adulthood, girls were portrayed as very young or very mature. Girl children were expected to act very dependent until a certain age and then suddenly expected to be responsible. The idea of a transitional coming-of-age girl was new and explored seriously only in post-war interpretations. Takashi Saida (1925) was perhaps the first to create a middle class Alice with the right balance of sophistication and uncertainty seen in the English versions. In the 1930s, the rising tide of nationalism and militarism influenced the expression in children’s books and there was a decline in sweet and innocent portrayals until after the war when all constraints on style and interpretation were obliterated. The first expression of Alice as a nymphet was in 1974 by Kuniyoshi Kaneko and many have carried on this theme, exploring Alice’s emerging sexuality.

Takashi Saida - ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Takashi Saida – ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Mainland China had a strange ordinance in 1930 which banned Alice on the silly notion that because the animals talked, it put them on the same level as human beings. Also mentioned in the text is the mystery of a strange edition produced in a short run in Inner Mongolia that seems to defy Chinese convention. Writers and artists are not usually credited in Chinese Communist publications. However, this adaptation not only gives this Taiwanese illustrator credit, but seems to be observing a more international form of copyright law.

Shi Huimin - 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

Shi Huimin – 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

In 1879, the first translation of Alice into Russian appeared featuring the art of Tenniel. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for this new literature and a number of editions were produced before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Under Soviet domination and particularly under Stalin, artists were regarded as engineers of utopian society rather than challengers of societal norms. Carroll’s works were banned outright simply because they emphasized fantasy and nonsense rather than serving a moral purpose—expressing Socialist Realism. Artistic institutions were integrated as government unions so no rogue artist could ever hope to get a commission or be published without state sanction. The principles of Soviet Communism continued to have a hold on the artistic process even after Stalin’s death.

There seemed always to be an attempt to bring a kind of order to chaos, either literally as in Aleksandr Dodon’s (2001) framing of the text with his illustrations or in some metaphorical way, making Alice the arbiter of morality in Wonderland and the Looking-Glass worlds. The fact that both stories take place in a template of game playing (cards and chess) gave Russian artists the comfort of structure and the application of rules. Julia Gukova’s illustrations break through this convention by making Alice more an integral part of Wonderland, undermining her ability to pass judgment on these dream worlds. The Russian truism that there is no absolute truth in narrative is perhaps the unifying theme of work in the region.

V.S. Alfeevsky - Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

V.S. Alfeevsky – Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

Aleksandr Dodon - Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

Aleksandr Dodon – Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

The first translation of Wonderland into Polish was in 1910 which included images by Tenniel mixed with an anonymous artist. The effect was confusing since the artist made no effort to match Tenniel’s design or style. It had only one edition and was quickly forgotten. Two later translations/illustrations that did have a lasting impact were by Kamil Mackiewicz (1927) and Olga Siemaszko (1955). As a caricaturist, Mackiewicz’s illustrations predictably exaggerated distinguishing traits of its characters.

A 1955 version was written by Antoni Marianowicz adhering to Communist cultural policy; any reference to class distinctions had to be toned down or reinterpreted. The particular genius of this work is that the English cultural references and poems were replaced outright by Polish ones that readers could relate to. And since Marianowicz was a humorist, this version was certainly more humorous than the original. Siemaszko also illustrated a 1969 version and there is a noticeable refinement in her technique. Most later Polish editions used mostly foreign illustrators and so there appears to be no distinctive Polish style. Only after the fall of Communism did native artists start to come to the fore. Ironically, some of the most recent editions again make use of the Tenniel drawings and so the younger generation is likely to have the same visual associations with the Alice books as their grandparents.

Olga Siemaszko - Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

Olga Siemaszko – Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

After discussing illustrations, the book covers film treatments of Alice. The most interesting is an essay by Jan Švankmajer who describes his relationship to Alice and how, in combination with his own childhood, it inspired the production of an independent film. His first foray into Carroll’s world was a 1971 film based on the poem Jabberwocky. He describes it as an imaginative history of his childhood up to the point when he rebelled against his father. The film opens with a child’s voice (his own daughter, Veronika, then aged 9 in the Czech version) quoting from Looking-Glass. Because the censors saw the film as containing political allegories, it was banned in Czecholslovakia and he made an English version in 1973 which traveled the globe. Only in 1989, was the original film finally seen in his home country.

Another film, inspired somewhat by Alice, was Down in the Cellar (Do pivnice, 1983) about a girl sent to the cellar to fetch potatoes and what happens to her there. Although the film was completed, it did not see the light of day for a number of years due again to censorship. Švankmajer emphasizes the importance of the dream imagery in our human development, a trait that has been long neglected because it served “no moral purpose”.

Finally, he decided to attempt Alice (Něco z Alenky ,1988). The filmmaker wanted to emphasize dream imagery but reminds us that dreams are also filled with familiar objects. All the voices, appropriately altered, would be done by the same child actress consistent with the theory that we are all the characters in our dreams. The idea is that Alice is the only live person in the film and there are no intrusions of adults in voice or body. The other characters were constructed from everyday objects from Alice’s world. The Czech studios took no interest in his work, so he got financing from foreign companies and enlisted the support of art institutions to give his work credibility. The filming was done using old discarded cameras and editing equipment and in 1986, the first Czech independent film saw the light of day. Then in 2006, a Japanese publisher asked him to illustrate both Alice books and he leapt at the chance.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice is one of the basic books of this civilization, one of those we should take with us to a desert island, just in order to survive.” –Jan Švankmajer (2011, translated by David Short)

Jan Švankmajer - Alice (1988)

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988)

Another essay discusses how Alice lends itself so well to animation. Considering the fantastical nature of the stories, it seems that only this medium would have any hope of effectively portraying these magical worlds. Kamilla Elliott, in her book Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate (2003), has identified over 50 film and television adaptations. As mentioned before, Walt Disney was obsessed with producing Alice very early on and in the 1920s, he experimented with a combination of live action and animation for Alice in Cartoonland. The 1951 film distinguishes itself by featuring an actual child’s voice—that of Kathryn Beaumont who also did Wendy in Peter Pan—as opposed to young women used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

A number of living artists shared their experiences illustrating Alice and the philosophy behind their approach. Michael Foreman, for example, noticed how few illustrators tried to make Alice look like the original Alice (Liddell). He also made a deliberate effort to distinguish reality (sepia) from dream (color) and insists that the real background for Wonderland must be his native Cornwall. Barry Moser muses how the story is really about loneliness because of how often the words “alone” and “lonely” appear in the text. John Vernon Lord is a stickler and points out that in the actual text, “Mad” is not applied to any particular character but rather all characters in general. Over the years, we have inherited certain assumptions because of past illustrators: the Hatter is mad, the Hatter wears a hat with a price tag on it and that, at the Mad Tea Party, things other than tea are served. Tatiana Ianovskaia observes a lightly etched eroticism implied by the various metaphors of two things being one: most notably, how playing cards are a kind of marriage of two bodies sharing one space. The other artists featured were John Bradley, Chiara Carrer, Emma Chichester Clark, Gavin O’Keefe, DeLoss McGraw, Helen Oxenbury, Ralph Steadman and Justin Todd.

Tatiana Ianovskaia - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

Tatiana Ianovskaia – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

A short afterword, written by Graham Ovenden, comments on the modern estrangement between adults and children and that we are often deprived of the full potential of illustrators’ talent and imagination because of economic considerations.

Some of the contributors have observed some developments in the evolution of children’s books. First of all, they feel that there is a lack of charming little details. There is an assumption that children’s books should have simple illustrations. There also seems to be no adult market for illustrated books except in France and Russia. And one final observation is that with the onset of the digital age, Illustrating Alice may distinguish itself as the last time we see this kind of compilation in hard copy.

This post is quite timely as this year is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Illustrating Alice was published in a run of 500 for the Standard edition (68 for the Special edition which comes with signed prints) and can be purchased through the Inky Parrot Press. This publisher also sells other Alice volumes including a version where each illustration is from a different artist. For those wanting a more comprehensive analysis of the Alice texts and history should read one the editions referred to as The Annotated Alice.

Illustrating Alice summary of contents:

  • Foreword by Marina Vaizey
  • Alice in different countries: Brazil by Adriana Peliano, China by Richard Newnham, England, 1865–1939 by Selwyn Goodacre, England, 1940 to today by Dennis Hall, France by Michèle Noret, Italy by Caterina Morelli, Japan by Mikiko Chimori, Poland by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Russia by Ella Parry-Davies, United States and Canada by Mark Burnstein
  • Alice in Film: ‘Alice’ by Jan Švankmajer, ‘Animating Alice’ by Karen Lury
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (artists credited above)
  • Alice Through the Looking-Glass (collected illustrations only, organized by chapter
  • Alice: as through a Glass Darkly (afterword) by Graham Ovenden
  • Alphabetical Checklist of English Language Editions from the lists compiled by Selwyn Goodacre and Edward Wakeling
  • Index of Artists of non-English Language Editions and individual paintings