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An English Illustrator's Wonderland Face

 

In his children's book illustrations, the English artist Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), who illustrated Wonderland in 1907, often used himself as a model and occasionally included a caricature of his face in his artwork. In Wonderland, the face of the Hatter (top, left) in the book's chapter titled "Mad Tea-Party" and the face of the Caterpillar (top, right) in the book's chapter titled "Advice from a Caterpillar" have a remarkable resemblance to Rackham's stylized face. A young boy with a vivid imagination who met Rackham remember him rather harshly as "wizened and wrinkled like a ripe walnut" -- reminiscent of a goblin in a fairytale, similar to the self-caricature (bottom, left) in Aesop's Fables (1912). What Rackham actually looked like is shown in a traditional self-portrait painted in 1934 (bottom, right) and described by a Rackham biographer as revealing a "watchful, tense, even tight-lipped man" known for illustrative humor, parody, and self-caricature. Sources: Derek Hudson, Arthur Rackham: His Life and Works (New York, 1960) and James Hamilton, Arthur Rackham: A Biography (New York, 1990).

Rare-book factlet: A 1907 edition of Rackham's Wonderland is a treasured piece of Alice in Wonderland memorabilia for the serious collector of late 19th-century and early 20th-century illustrated children's books and an undamaged copy signed by Rackham or a copy of a 1907 "deluxe limited edition" can fetch several thousand United States' dollars in a rare-book store or on an internet book auction. Source: AWT's rare-book files.

Hell-with-it factlet: Arthur Rackham only illustrated Wonderland and did not illustrate the sequel, Looking-Glass, perhaps, as a Rackham biographer has suggested, he was "shaken and disappointed by the adverse criticism" his Wonderland illustrations generated in the book's reviews by not-so-bright literary critics who did not foresee the lasting value of his Wonderland artwork. Source: Derek Hudson, Arthur Rackham: His Life and Works (New York, 1960).

Exhibition factlet: In January 1908 in a London art gallery Arthur Rackham exhibited 30 watercolor paintings prepared for the 1907 English edition of Wonderland -- however, only 13 full-color illustrations were included in the 1907 book. Source: Leicester Galleries (.com), 14 Sep 2013.

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