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Sir John Tenniel: Aspects of His Work

Simpson, Roger

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ISBN 10: 0838634931 / ISBN 13: 9780838634936
Published by Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford, 1994
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Hardcover with dustjacket. 4to. No edition stated. Book is in fine condition. Jacket is in near fine condition; there is a small surface nick to front cover, and edges are lightly rubbed. Not price-clipped. 187 pp. including index. Bookseller Inventory # 12041

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Sir John Tenniel: Aspects of His Work

Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, Rutherford

Publication Date: 1994

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title


This study deals with the early works of the influential illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, and with the ways in which the great debate of the 1840s in favor of the creation of an English school of history painting manifested itself in his art. Indeed, the historicist revival would be the driving force behind virtually all of his artwork throughout the whole of his life, including the work by which he is best known, his illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
But Tenniel's long career was also a struggle between his responsiveness to popular taste and his sympathy with views on art that condemned that taste and sought to reform it. He was drawn to the Bohemian cliques of the 1840s, which were instrumental in the attempt to resurrect a school of English history painting. He played a relatively successful and prominent role in the focus of that movement, the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament. That project and his work for it raise a number of serious questions of ongoing significance - concerning the need for state patronage of art, the possibility of imposing foreign forms upon an unresponsive public, and the plausibility of the idea that art can effect social change. Many believed that the state machinery that had become necessary for the effective government of industrial culture was also necessary to ensure the survival of a vigorous art reflecting the values of that culture. Tenniel's career would seem to prove the opposite hypothesis.
After Westminster, Tenniel would transfer the cold, hierarchical imagery that he evolved there to his work as the principal political cartoonist for Punch. He held the position for nearly forty years, and he developed a style of imperial allegory that brought him immense respect and exerted an enormous influence over political cartooning at home and abroad until well into the twentieth century.
But against that didactic paternalism was a deep-rooted responsiveness to his middle-class audience and its culture. An avid amateur actor, Tenniel incorporated strong gestural and theatrical elements into his work. Above all he drew upon the conventions of visual satire. Reform theory was based on the creation of social change, and so tended to see the past as separate from the present. Satire acted as the restraining social conscience against political excess, and against change. In his satires of the medieval revival in Punch in the 1850s, Tenniel deyeloped a purely visual, gestural, historicist burlesque that parodied the revival but was also a genuine adaptation of historical forms to a contemporary context. He created a traditionalistic cosmos in which the past permeated and enriched the present - culminating in the great high satire of his Alice work; a triumph of English common sense.

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Warwick Books, is an Internet-only bookseller that specializes in hard-to-find books for avid readers and collectors. Many of our books are out of print. Specialties include literature, signed firsts, art and photography, design, illustrated books, cookbooks, field guides, children's books, needlecraft books, and Americana. We recently acquired a large private collection of books on military history. The focus is on World War II as well as aviation history. Warwick Books is a member of IOBA, the Independent Online Booksellers Association.

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