In 1865, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, an Oxford mathematician and Anglican deacon, published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a story about a little girl who tumbles down a rabbit hole, first introducing the world to Alice and her pseudonymous creator, Lewis Carroll.
There have been a huge number of visual takes on the character and her adventures since first published, across books, stage, cinema, comics and games, but surely there are none stranger than Salvador Dali‘s, published by NYC’s Maecenas Press (a division of Random House) in 1969.
Dalí created twelve heliogravures for the book – one illustration for each chapter — as well as a four-colour etching as the frontispiece. Only 2700 copies of the edition were printed, and the artist signed each original etching and as you can imagine, they cost thousands to buy, which is hardly surprising when you consider not only its content and rarity, but how big the book actually is.
The original edition fast became a rare and sought-after collector’s item but in 2015, commemorating the 150th anniversary of one of the most beloved classics of children’s literature, Princeton University Press released a new illustrated edition.
This edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland features all the rarely seen illustrations by Salvador Dalí, digitised by the William Bennett Gallery, who hold the original art. It illuminates the surreal yet curiously logical and mathematical realm into which Alice famously falls and offers an opportunity to explore an annotated gallery of seldom-seen, fabulously psychedelic Salvador Dalí illustrations that might just blow your mind.
The book includes an informative and wide-ranging introduction by Carroll expert Mark Burstein, who discusses Dalí’s connections with Carroll, his treatment of the symbolic figure of Alice, and the mathematical nature of Wonderland. In addition, mathematician Thomas Banchoff reflects on the friendship he shared with Dalí and explores the mathematical undercurrents in Dalí’s work.
Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832 – 98), a British writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer. His best-known works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass. Mark Burstein is president emeritus of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America and the editor of or contributor to fourteen books about Carroll. Thomas Banchoff is professor emeritus of mathematics at Brown University.
Salvador Dali (1904 – 1989) was a Spanish painter, graphic artist, filmmaker, writer. A modern master of the surreal arts, Salvador Dali’s works continually challenged convention by questioning the antithesis of surrealism: our normal sense of the “real.” Surrealism’s objective was to make accessible to art the realms of the unconscious, irrational and imaginary.
An expansive movement that extended beyond the canvas, Surrealism embraced literature, music, cinema, philosophy and popular culture. Dali’s works drew inspiration from fellow Surrealists, such as Giorgio de Chirico, Max Ernst, Joan Miro and Yves Tanguy, and also from old European masters like Giuseppe Arcimboldo, Giovanni Bracelli and Antoni Gaudi.
Dali’s Surrealist adventures began in 1929 when he painted his first Surrealist painting, The Lugubrious Game. His painting style, which reflects his academic training in its precise, almost photographic realism, transformed Surrealism by the early 1930s. Inspired by psychoanalytical writings of Sigmund Freud, Dali believed that his detailed illusionism was instrumental in the exploration of the dream imagery and the subconscious that he painted.
Dali’s works depict a highly provocative pictorial language that illustrate his imagery into painted metaphors. Iconic images such as a melting clock, the burning giraffe and swarming ants are all keys that Dali offers the viewer to try and unlock his cryptic images.
Dali was a theatrical and provocative persona among the Parisian Surrealists. During his extended career, Dali participated in the production of ten films, three theatre productions, two operas and nine ballets. As a perpetual performer himself, Dali naturally cultivated friendships with those in the entertainment world such as Harpo Marx, Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney.
Of all his diverse techniques, Dali was perhaps at his most virtuosic when it came to printmaking. The artist made over 1500 prints during the course of his lifetime, 57 of which were created during the 1930’s, the key decade for his artistic development.
Most of Dali’s prints from this era appeared as illustrations in books by fellow Surrealists like Andre Breton and Paul Eluard, among others. In 1930 Dali illustrated Les Chants de Maldoror, in which he used a stream-of-consciousness process to access personal hallucinations and delusions. These visions ultimately replaced what was described in the book, once again putting Dali on stage – and his work for publishers continued, and continues, to excite his many admirers to this day.
• Alice’s Day will be taking place all over Oxford on 6th July 2019, run by The Story Museum. The Lewis Carroll Society will presents four illustrated talks at Oxford University’s prestigious Bodleian Library – more information here
• Buy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Salvador Dali, here (Amazon Affiliate Link)
• Buy an original Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Salvador Dali, here – if you have £12,000 in spare change
• The original art is held by the William Bennett Gallery in New York, currently moving to new premises on Madison Avenue | View a full gallery of all Dali’s “Alice” works here on the Gallery site
The Lewis Carroll Society was formed in 1969 with the aim of encouraging research into the life and works of Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). The Society has members around the world, including many leading libraries and institutions, authors, researchers and many who simply enjoy Carroll’s books and want to find out more about the man and his work. Full membership details are here on the Society web site
• Brain Pickings: The Best Illustrations from 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland – Down the rabbit hole in enchanting re-imaginings
• Also on Brain Pickings: the story of how the Carroll story was born and other stunning artistic interpretations of the classic tale from its 150-year history, then revisit Dalí’s rare erotic cookbook and his forgotten illustrations for Don Quixote in 1946, the essays of Montaigne in 1947, The Divine Comedy in 1957, and Romeo and Juliet in 1975.
• Open Culture features articles on The Tarot Card Deck Designed by Salvador Dalí, Salvador Dalí’s 1973 Cookbook Gets Reissued: Surrealist Art Meets Haute Cuisine, Salvador Dalí’s Avant-Garde Christmas Cards and there’s an item on Lewis Carroll’s Original Handwritten & Illustrated Manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1864) – and check out Ralph Steadman’s Twisted Illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on the Story’s 150th Anniversary
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