Dodgson’s Illustrators

The Illustrators of Carroll's Works

Eight of Lewis Carroll’s most important works are illustrated. He chose the artists to provide the illustrations and worked closely with them. He made sure that the pictures in his books matched his ideas and fitted his text.

The illustrators of his works are:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) John Tenniel

Through the Looking-Glass (1871) John Tenniel

The Hunting of the Snark (1876) Henry Holiday

Rhyme? And Reason? (1883) Arthur B. Frost

A Tangled Tale (1885) Arthur B. Frost

Sylvie and Bruno (1889) Harry Furniss

Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) Harry Furniss

Three Sunsets and Other Poems (1898) E. Gertrude Thomson

The original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures under Ground was illustrated with Lewis Carroll’s own drawings, but from then on he used a professional illustrator to provide the pictures he required.

Carroll’s relationship with his illustrators and the details of their involvement in his publications can be further explored in Lewis Carroll and his Illustrators, edited by Morton N. Cohen and Edward Wakeling, Cornell University Press, 2003.

Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914)

  • Born on 28 February 1820 in Kensington, London; son of John Baptist Tenniel, of Huguenot lineage.
  • Taught himself to draw at an early age; studied for a short time at the Royal Academy Schools; became dissatisfied with the teaching there.
  • Exhibited at the Suffolk Street Galleries, London, when aged only 16 years; exhibited at the Royal Academy when aged 17 years, and for the next 5 years; his early work was in oils. He was commissioned to paint a fresco for the House of Lords in 1845.
  • A fencing accident in his youth left him blind in one eye.
  • First illustrated books were Undine (1845); Aesop’s Fables (1848), although some of his work was included in The Book of British Ballads (1842).
  • He worked by drawing directly onto the wood-block which was then cut by an engraver.
  • In 1850, Mark Lemon, editor of Punch, invited him to join the staff; this began a 50 year association.
  • In April 1864 he accepted Lewis Carroll’s invitation to illustrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
  • He was fairly slow in producing his illustrations which delayed publication until July 1865; the book contained 42 illustrations of various sizes and shapes according to Carroll’s requirements
  • Initially, he was reluctant to accept the commission to illustrate Through the Looking-Glass, but eventually agreed “at such spare times as he can find” (Lewis Carroll’s Diaries); the book contained 50 illustrations.
  • He tended not to use models; he drew mainly from memory; Lewis Carroll suggested that he use a model for the Alice illustrations; Tenniel replied: “he no more needed one than I {Carroll} should need a multiplication-table to work a mathematical problem!” (Collingwood’s biography, p. 199).
  • Lewis Carroll compared all subsequent illustrators to Tenniel; expecting the same high level of draughtsmanship.
  • Tenniel was knighted in 1893. He died in London on 25 February 1914. His illustrations for the Alice books have always been in print.

Useful References:

Hancher, Michael, The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘ Alice’ Books, Ohio State University Press, 1985.

Engen, Rodney, Sir John Tenniel, Alice’s White Knight, Scolar Press, 1991.

Simpson, Roger, Sir John Tenniel, Aspects of His Work, Associated University Presses, 1994.

Henry Holiday (1839-1927)

  • Born on 17 June 1839, at Hampstead Street, Fitzroy Square, London, where he lived until 1857.
  • Attended the Royal Academy Schools from 1855.
  • Met Holman Hunt and Burne-Jones in 1860 and became associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Movement.
  • He worked for the Powell Glass Works, Whitefriars, as a designer of stained glass from 1863.
  • His stained glass windows can be seen all over England, in Europe and in the United States.
  • He married Kate Raven in 1864; they had one daughter, Winifred.
  • Holiday wrote in his autobiography: ‘It was an agreeable surprise when one morning Lewis Carroll came to see me and my work... We became friends on the spot and continued so till his death.’(Reminiscences of My Life, 1914.)
  • Carroll spent a number of days at Holiday’s Hampstead home in July 1870 taking photographs; he gave Holiday an album containing 24 of his photographs as a gift (now at Princeton University).
  • Carroll commissioned Holiday to illustrate The Hunting of the Snark in January 1874.
  • Holiday designed the cover of the book and also produced nine illustrations, a frontispiece and one for each ‘fit’; his sketch of a Snark was rejected by Carroll who said that: ‘it was a beautiful beast but that he had made the Snark strictly unimaginable and desired him to remain so.’
  • Holiday as a painter is best remembered for his picture ‘Dante and Beatrice’ exhibited in 1883.
  • He published Stained Glass as an Art in 1896.

Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928)

  • Born on 17 January 1851 in Philadelphia, United States of America
  • As an artist he was, in the main, self-taught, but was apprenticed as a wood-engraver in his youth
  • He became a lithographer working on hard, cheap commercial designs which gave no scope to his artistic talent
  • In 1874, Frost illustrated his first book, Out of the Hurly-Burly by Max Adeler (pseudonym of Charles Clarke), producing nearly 400 line drawings that created an immediate sensation and secured his reputation as an illustrator
  • In 1877, Frost travelled to London, and during his year-long stay he drew for Dickens’ American Notes (Household Edition, 1878), and it is these illustrations, and others drawn for the magazine, Judy, that caught Lewis Carroll’s eye.
  • Early in 1878, Carroll approached Frost to illustrate a poem, ‘The Three Voices’, and in 1881 commissioned him to produce the 65 pictures used in Rhyme? and Reason?
  • Frost returned to America in May 1878, so he completed the commission from there; the details were discussed by letter, but the delays of sending and receiving mail across the Atlantic proved to be an obstacle which delayed publication of the book.
  • Carroll was happy with the outcome and even considered Frost to illustrate Sylvie and Bruno; but the next commission was for A Tangled Tale; however, the illustrations did not meet with Carroll’s approval and only six of the projected ten were used, the relationship between the men breaking down completely; Frost never illustrated for Carroll again.
  • On 19 October 1883, he married Emily Louise Phillip.
  • Frost published books of humorous drawings and verses, Stuff and Nonsense (1884), The Bull Calf and Other Tales (1892), and also illustrated a number of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus stories (1892-1905).
  • A serious eye defect made it difficult for him to differentiate certain colours, especially reds and greens, but nevertheless he had some success with his watercolour pictures.
  • In September 1906, Frost and his family (he now had two sons) moved to Paris, but soon took on a country-cottage at Giverny, near Claude Monet’s house.
  • The continuing success of his book illustrations convinced him that he should return to the United States and take up his black-and-white illustrations again.
  • He retired to Pasadena, California, where he died on 22 June 1928.

Harry Furniss (1820-1925)

  • Born 26 March 1854 in Wexford, Ireland; educated at Wesleyan College, Dublin, where he edited a magazine called The Schoolboys’ Punch.
  • He drew cartoons for Zozimus, the Irish equivalent of Punch
  • Left Dublin at aged 19 and travelled to London; contributed to London Society, Illustrated London News, and Cornhill Magazine.
  • Joined staff of Punch in 1880 specialising in parliamentary scenes (notably Gladstone’s high collar which became something of a trademark).
  • He illustrated Thackeray’s Ballads and The Rose and the Ring (1879), and his own Holiday Romps in 4 volumes (1885-86).
  • Carroll saw his Punch illustrations and as a result asked him to illustrate Sylvie and Bruno in 1885; the collaboration ranged between cordiality and antagonism, threats and conciliation; for Furniss’s view, see Confessions of a Caricaturist (1901).
  • Eventually, Furniss produced 46 illustrations for Sylvie and Bruno that met with Carroll’s approval (one of the illustrations is by Carroll’s friend, Alice Havers, also repeated in the second book).
  • Carroll then asked him to illustrate Sylvie and Bruno Concluded; 46 further illustrations were included
  • Other books illustrated by Furniss include the Wallypug of Why by G.E. Farrow (1895).
  • He was well known as a lecturer and raconteur, giving lecture tours in the UK and America.
  • He wrote and appeared in some early motion pictures.
  • In 1909 he produced illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that appeared in the Children’s Encyclopedia edited by Arthur Mee.
  • He was married with three children. He died at his home in Hastings in 1925.

Useful References:

Goodacre, Selwyn H. and Wakeling, Edward, ‘Alice Illustrated by Harry Furniss’ in The Carrollian, No. 3, Spring 1999.

Emily Gertrude Thomson (1850-1929)

  • She was the daughter of Alexander Thomson (1815-95), Professor of Greek and Hebrew at Lancashire Independent College.
  • She studied at the Manchester School of Art, won a number of Queen’s Prizes, and became a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters.
  • At various points in her career she painted portraits, illustrated books, and designed stained-glass windows.
  • She exhibited in Manchester, Liverpool, Brussels, and Canada.
  • Works by her are in the permanent collections of the Manchester Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum; her stained-glass windows can be seen at Cheltenham College and at the Church of St. John the Divine, Brooklands, Cheshire.
  • Carroll saw some greeting cards illustrated by her in December 1878, and being impressed by her art, wrote to the publisher Arthur Ackermann asking for her address. This resulted in a commission to draw for him, initially for a puzzle book for children but eventually for his serious poems which were published just after Carroll’s death entitled Three Sunsets and Other Poems which had 12 ‘fairy-fancies’ by Thomson.

Useful References:

Davis, J.N.S. ‘E. Gertrude Thomson, Illustrator, 1850-1929’, Jabberwocky, Autumn 1975.

Collingwood, S.D.The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, p. 194.

Shaberman, Raphael, ‘E. Gertrude Thomson (1850-1929): An Annotated Check-List’, Jabberwocky, Autumn 1992.

Other Illustrators

Other illustrators who were approached by Lewis Carroll for possible commissions were George Du Maurier (1834-1896), Joseph Noël Paton (1821-1901), Edwin Lindley Sambourne (1844-1910) and Samuel Luke Fildes (1844-1927). Sambourne made preliminary sketches to accompany one of Carroll’s poems, but these are now missing.


This page is based on material compiled by Edward Wakeling with further enhancements suggestd by Mark Richards.