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Art & Animal

An Antipodal Illustrator's Anthropomorphic Zoo


The New Zealand-born illustrator Harry Rountree (1878-1950), who moved to England at age 23, is noted for his anthropomorphic art -- an art form often used in children's books in which animals are presented in human dress, speak in human speech, perform human tasks, and display human motivations and behaviors. Rountree is called an "antipodal" illustrator by AWT because the word means "the opposite side of the earth" and Rountree was born on the other side of the planet from England. (Alice incorrectly calls this geographical area the "Antipathies" instead of the "Antipodes," which usually means New Zealand and Australia.) In one of the 92 watercolor drawing the antipodal Rountree produced for a circa 1908 London and New York edition of Wonderland, he depicts the Canary (bottom) as a well-dressed bird leading her featherless children away from Alice who has frightened the Canary by Alice's talk about her pet cat. In his old Magpie (top, right) illustration, the bird is dressed in blue-and-brown ladies' garments and holds an unopened parasol. However, the most notable anthropomorphic animal in Wonderland is the White Rabbit that in the original John Tenniel illustrations (1865) wears a waistcoat and vest and carries a pocket watch and a closed umbrella. In one of Rountree's White Rabbit illustrations (top, left) the bunny is dressed in a dinner  jacket and white gloves and carries a fan and in another illustration it carries a butterfly net and wears an outdoorsman's clothes complete with sunglasses. Source: A modern American reprint (Mineola NY, 2011) of Rountree's Wonderland.

Rabbit factlet: In the numerous 1-to-10 lists naming the United States' "Top 10 Famous Fictional Rabbits," the White Rabbit in Wonderland is often named, sharing the listings with the carrot-eating, cartoon-rabbit Bugs Bunny ("What’s up, Doc?"), the modern Easter Bunny, and a battery company's advertising rabbit, the Energizer Bunny. Source: List Verse (website), 20 July 2012.

Golf factlet: In the world of British golf, Harry Rountree is fondly remembered for his memorable illustrations in Bernard Darwin's The Golf Courses of the British Isles (1910), which includes an illustration of the approach in 1910 to the 9th-hole green of the Frilford Heath Golf Club's Red Course in Oxfordshire, Alice's real-world geographical homeland. Source: Frilford Heath Golf Club (website), 3 Apr 2014.

Chatter factlet: The magpie, including the black-billed magpie (Pica pica) common in the Northern Hemisphere, is noted for its chattering call and a human who chatters is called a magpie. Source: The American Heritage Dictionary (Boston MA, 1982).

No Political Turkey Talk in Wonderland

 An English-language word used to describe unclear jargon is sometimes associated with Alice's name.

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God, Soap, and Free Soup

A Christian army of "do-gooders" had a taste for "beautiful soup."

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Lady and Lilacs at Christ Church

 A painting owned by Lewis Carroll may have inspired his own artistic version of the fictional Alice.

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The Caterpillar's Nontoxic Mushroom

 The species of mushroom that Alice eats in Wonderland is not identified in the first Alice book.

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Alice Rides the Victorian Railroad

 England's real Victorian railroad is reflected in Alice's train ride in Looking-Glass world.

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An English Illustrator's Wonderland Face

An early 20th-century illustrator of Wonderland often used himself as a model.

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Wonderland Overshadows Maui Wowie

The Alice books provide a treasure-trove of colorful names for female cosmetics.

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Long-Necked Alice as Treetop Scientist

 A title word in the first Alice book describes a research phase in the scientific world of treetop studies.

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The Ubiquitous Non-Wonderland Cocktail

 Literary-minded bartenders and mixologists who create names for cocktails occasionally reply on the Alice books for inspiration.

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