Looking in Wonderland at a new art exhibition

Some of the most famous illustrations in the world will be brought to the south of Scotland.

A selection of the best of Sir John Tenniel’s illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s two Alice books – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there (1872) – will be on show at the Kirkcudbright Galleries from Saturday 9 February to Sunday 24 March 2019

John Tenniel spent all his life in London where he worked as a political cartoonist for Punch magazine, but in 1864 he was approached by Lewis Carroll (an Oxford mathematics don whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) with the request to illustrate a small nonsense book for children he wished to publish.

The initial story had been made up by Dodgson for the daughters of the Dean of Christ Church College during a boating trip on 4 July 1862, and at the request of one of them, Alice Liddell, he wrote out the story of the little girl who dreamt (or did she?) that she went down a rabbit hole into Wonderland where she met an amazing set of characters – the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the King and Queen of Hearts, the Mock Turtle, the Cheshire Cat – and found herself in some awfully weird situations.

The story – published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – was an instant hit with children and adults alike – as was the sequel Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there published seven years later.

From the very start it was agreed that a major part of their success was due to the unique and imaginative illustrations supplied to the text by John Tenniel and despite there now being many hundreds of artists worldwide who have illustrated Alice, Tenniel’s illustrations remain the definitive ones.

The exhibition on show at the Kirkcudbright Galleries is a selection of the best illustrations from both books in which the creative genius of both Carroll and Tenniel is shown at its best. The original drawings were made on wooden blocks and then engraved by commercial engravers in London and the prints on show at the centre are perfect examples of the skill of both illustrator and engraver.

Councillor Andy Ferguson, Chair of the Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee, said: ‘This is a fantastic exhibition, and a great opportunity for the community to have these internationally celebrated illustrations visit Kirkcudbright.’

This exhibition will be accompanied by three stunning costumes made by local artists for Newton Stewart Players annual pantomime, of which the 2018 performance was Alice in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts Costume was designed and produced by artist Gillian Pearce exclusively for the pantomime, as was the Alice and shrunken Alice costume which features in the exhibition.

The Alice costumes were designed by local student from the Douglas Ewart High School: Kirsten Bleasdale.  Kirsten is in her final school year, hoping to study costume design at University. Her dresses were designed to twirl and catch the light on stage. All costumes have been designed and hand sewn by the artists.

Kirsten said she was: ‘delighted to accept this offer to display her costumes in Kirkcudbright Art Gallery alongside the Queen of Hearts costume by Gillian Pearce.’

Councillor John Martin, vice chairman of Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Communities Committee added: ‘The inclusion of local artists costumes alongside the original illustrations highlights the extent of talent that Dumfries and Galloway has to offer in the region.’

The exhibition, Looking In Wonderland, will be on show at Kirkcudbright Galleries, Stewartry Museum, St Mary Street, Kirkcudbright DG6 4AQ from Saturday 19 January to Sunday 24 March 2019.