Salvador Dalí, the master of surrealism, illustrated one of the greatest and most surreal literary works of all time: Alice in Wonderland.
In 1985, 20 thousand shiny and carefully crafted new books were distributed with the title Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland written on the cover. Since its first edition, Lewis Carroll’s most famous work continues to leave its mark on popular culture. Its undeniable influence is obvious when we observe contemporary pieces that are not limited to literature. It is full of complex visuals and imagery that remain in the reader’s mind long after finishing the book. It has often been considered as a surrealist work of fiction, so it’s no wonder that Salvador Dalí was part of a project related to the novel.
The acclaimed surrealist painter carried out a series of illustrations for a reprinting of the book after being commissioned by Maecenas Press-Random House in 1969. As expected of the artist, Dalí did no adhere to traditions and did not even seem to base his illustrations off of John Tenniel’s original works. Dalí came up with a total of 12 heliographic engravings, one for each chapter.
The results shown below are classic Dalí, always veering towards the surreal aesthetic. Though we observe glimpses of the strange characters that inhabit Carroll’s story, we mostly just see the painter’s imagination. The images are as macabre as they are hypnotizing, yet so beautiful that copies of this special edition are still widely sought.
Down the Rabbit Hole
'Well!’ thought Alice to herself, 'after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)
The Pool Of Tears
'You ought to be ashamed of yourself,’ said Alice, 'a great girl like you,’ (she might well say this), 'to go on crying in this way! Stop this moment, I tell you!’ But she went on all the same, shedding gallons of tears, until there was a large pool all round her, about four inches deep and reaching half down the hall.
A Caucus-race and a Long Tale
Alice thought the whole thing very absurd, but they all looked so grave that she did not dare to laugh; and, as she could not think of anything to say, she simply bowed, and took the thimble, looking as solemn as she could.
The Rabbit Sends in A Little Bill
Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice, as she went hunting about, and called out to her in an angry tone, 'Why, Mary Ann, what ARE you doing out here? Run home this moment, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!’ And Alice was so much frightened that she ran off at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake it had made.
Advice from a Caterpillar
The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
'Who are YOU?’ said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.’
Pig and Pepper
'I didn’t know that Cheshire cats always grinned; in fact, I didn’t know that cats COULD grin.’
'They all can,’ said the Duchess; 'and most of ’em do.’
A Mad Tea-Party
The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, 'It was the BEST butter, you know.’
The Queen’s Croquet-Ground
'I see!’ said the Queen, who had meanwhile been examining the roses. 'Off with their heads!’ and the procession moved on, three of the soldiers remaining behind to execute the unfortunate gardeners, who ran to Alice for protection.
The Lobster Quadrille
So Alice began telling them her adventures from the time when she first saw the White Rabbit. She was a little nervous about it just at first, the two creatures got so close to her, one on each side, and opened their eyes and mouths so VERY wide, but she gained courage as she went on. Her listeners were perfectly quiet till she got to the part about her repeating 'YOU ARE OLD, FATHER WILLIAM,’ to the Caterpillar, and the words all coming different, and then the Mock Turtle drew a long breath, and said 'That’s very curious.’
Who Stole the Tarts?
'Take off your hat,’ the King said to the Hatter.
'It isn’t mine,’ said the Hatter.
'Stolen!’ the King exclaimed, turning to the jury, who instantly made a memorandum of the fact.
'I keep them to sell,’ the Hatter added as an explanation; 'I’ve none of my own. I’m a hatter.’
Translated by María Suárez
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