here are two disadvantages to any discussion of Tenniel's Alice designs. Firstly, this most famous combination of text and illustrations stands alone without comment, and in many ways defies analysis; secondly, and ironically in view of the above, the Alice 'phenomenon' has been analysed and discussed so exhaustively that what is really quite a simple children's story with pictures - the source, of course, of its attraction - has become academicised, and it is hard to regress, if that is the correct term, to a correspondingly simple discussion. The purpose here, then, is not an ambitious one: as in the case of Tenniel's other designs, it is simply to examine the Alice books in terms of their bibliographical and illustrative history, to seek pictorial connections in Tenniel's other work, and to discover how influential Tenniel has been on later Alice artists.
From the point of view of style, the Alice books are very much products of their period, with text and illustrations alike exhibiting a typically Victorian eclecticism. As Humphrey Carpenter comments, Tenniel's classical draughtsmanship matches Carroll's carefully structured story:
Alice is strikingly restrained, classical rather than romantic in its disciplined organisation. (This makes Tenniel, really a very stiff and formal artist compared to most comic draughtsmen of his day, peculiarly suitable as an illustrator.)
This is, of course, true. One aspect of Tenniel's formality has to do with the composition of his designs, which often echo the structure of the stories by means of a symmetrical, enclosing sense of balance. This is often achieved by the placing of Alice between two other characters: the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon, Tweedledum and Tweedledee in their armour, the Red and White Queens, and the Lion and the Unicorn. Tenniel's use of bordering techniques is also interesting; most explicit here is the romanesque arch of the doorway in 'Queen Alice', and, more subtly still, the large padded...