Today’s blog post comes from Angela Brown, class of 2016 and Art Center Student Docent.

Drawing from Signature titled "Advice from a Caterpillar," from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, page 63.Salvador Dali, Spanish, 1901-1989.Published by Maecenes Press-Random House, NY

Drawing from Signature titled “Advice from a Caterpillar,” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, page 63.
Salvador Dali, Spanish, 1901-1989.
Published by Maecenes Press-Random House, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon learning that this year’s Founder’s Day theme would be Alice in Wonderland, I
couldn’t help but consider how stories from childhood remain with us throughout our
lives. I wanted to explore the way the significance and meaning of these stories shift
according to new experiences and perceptions of the world and our selves.

Fortunately, the collection at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center offered me an
opportunity to explore this from an artistic and art historical perspective. Vassar owns a
special edition of Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Salvador Dalí and I wondered how
this merging of “high art” with a familiar children’s story would affect my interpretation
of the illustrations. The book is copy 1,090 out of only 2,500 copies printed by Maecenas
Press—a division of Random House—in 1969. It includes one color etching and twelve
photolithographs of Dalí’s original illustrations. The originals were made with vivid
watercolor, gouache, and ink and often included cut-outs of butterflies, caterpillars,
cards, and other images. Interestingly, each printed illustration contains a different
lithographic remarque, making the signature itself an area of aesthetic interest within the
compositions.

 

Drawing from a Signature titled "The Queen's Croquet Ground," from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, page 68.Salvador Dali, Spanish, 1901-1989. Published by Maecenes Press-Random House, NY

Drawing from a Signature titled “The Queen’s Croquet Ground,” from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, page 68.
Salvador Dali, Spanish, 1901-1989. Published by Maecenes Press-Random House, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The illustrations allude to the text while utilizing a juxtaposition of spontaneity and
premeditation that adds a new visual layer to the themes within the story. Certain motifs
appear in all of the images, most notably that of Alice herself holding some sort of wire
or string in an arc above her head. The shadow she casts mimics this circle and seems to
represent a common lens through which to view the scenes; this lens distorts “reality”
and forces the viewer to reconsider the meaning behind certain objects, colors, and
shapes. Loosely applied watercolor creates a dreamy and fluid atmosphere in stark
contrast to black ink splatters that are sometimes slightly representational (a bird for
example), but often add a certain dynamic immediacy. For example, in “Advice from a
Caterpillar,” black ink splatters explode from the legs of a bigger, surrealistic caterpillar
placed directly next to a cut-out of a more realistic caterpillar seated on a large
mushroom. Alice and her shadow observe from the background, and the setting, although
a simple silhouette, resembles the shores of Port Lligat in Spain where Dalí lived. This
same landscape can be seen in many of his more famous works including The Sacrament
of the Last Supper, which distorts perspective in the foreground while maintaining a clear
landscape and horizon line in the background.

Dalí, Salvador. The Sacrament of the Last Supper. National Gallery of Art. 8' 9" x 5' 6" (2.67 m x 1.67 m). 1955. Oil paint.

The Sacrament of the Last Supper.
Salvador Dali, Spanish, 1901-1989.
National Gallery of Art. 1955. Oil paint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another one of the Alice in Wonderland illustrations does this as well. “The Queen’s
Croquet Ground” presents two scaled, sea-creature-like figures, one holding a queen of
hearts card and the other holding a jack of diamonds. The figures dominate the page and
are overwhelmingly larger than Alice, who is shown small and in yellow in the bottom
left-hand corner. These figures could be seen to symbolize a complex power struggle or
game of domination, but the viewer cannot be sure. However, Dalí includes perspectival
lines reaching back to that familiar and stable landscape suggesting that the uncertain
exists within a common framework that we must always question and find new ways to
observe just as these illustrations push us to reexamine how stories from our childhood
can hold deeper implications for our lives now
.

Share