Sir John Tenniel: Google Doodle pays tribute to Alice in Wonderland illustrator

The renowned illustrator made 92 drawings for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass

Louise Hall
Friday 28 February 2020 10:30 GMT
The Google Doodle is drawn in Tenniel's recognisable style
The Google Doodle is drawn in Tenniel's recognisable style (Google)

Today’s Google Doodle marks Alice in Wonderland illustrator Sir John Tenniel’s 200th birthday, with a sketch of his most renowned character.

The English illustrator and political cartoonist is most famous for the pictures he drew for Lewis Carroll’s hit Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland stories. Fittingly, the Google tribute shows Alice looking up at the Cheshire cat, replacing the letter L.

The image is shown to have been drawn in traditional pencil and ink, instantly recognisable as a reference to Mr Tenniel’s precise shaded outline style. The original drawings of Alice and her fanciful accomplices are still widely admired and Mr Tenniel is often considered as one of the most identifiable Victorian illustrators.

The son of a dancer and a fencing instructor, he sent his first picture to the exhibition of the Society of British Artists in 1836. Mr Tenniel continued to draw even though he lost sight in one of his eyes in a fencing accident at the age of 20, undeterred by the setback.

Aside from his illustrations of Alice, he was also especially well known for his work in Punch, an illustrated periodical known for its satiric humour, caricatures, and cartoons. He joined the publication in 1850 and worked on the magazine for most of his life.

The first printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was completed in 1865, but Mr Tenniel and Mr Carroll were often far from on the same page about the book’s creative process. Mr Carroll only liked one of Mr Tenniel’s first 42 drafts.

When Carroll asked Mr Tenniel to illustrate the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, following the success of the first book, Mr Tenniel initially turned him down. He was wary of the creative conflict between him and Carroll on the first book. He finally agreed, but never accepted another book project again.

In his personal life, Mr Tenniel was quite solitary, especially after his wife, Julia Giani, died two years into their marriage. The illustrator died on 25 February 1914, when he was 93. It had been nearly half a century since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published. He has left a legacy in his art that maintains him as a household name to this day.

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