Friday, February 27, 2015

Arty Farty Friday ~ John Tenniel, Alice & Political Cartooning

(Sir)John Tenniel was born in Bayswater, London, England on 28 February in 1820. His father was a dance teacher, the family lived in what has been described by a biographer as "genteel poverty", a state which afforded John a minimum of early formal education. Aided by his father's tuition he learned and polished some athletic skills - fencing, dancing and riding. His fencing practice resulted in an accidental blinding of his right eye. He attended the Royal Academy but soon removed himself, unimpressed by the quality of teaching there. Some of his artwork was exhibited when John was about 16 years old, which led to early recognition of his talent. Commissions began to arrive, a significant one was to create a fresco for the House of Lords (a division of the British Parliament).

In 1850 Tenniel joined the staff of Punch magazine as principal political cartoonist, he held that post for some 50 years. His work drew the attention of Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) who approached the artist with a request that he should illustrate a book, Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The book was published, in 1865, as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it contained 34 beautifully engraved line drawings, by John Tenniel, and became a classic. Tenniel later provided illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass(1872).

John Tenniel's work as cartoonist was always his natural preference, though his fame to this day, some 145 years later, stems from his "Alice" book illustrations. The reason being, I guess, that his political cartoons were "of that moment", and soon lost much of their relevance. They remain interesting, as pieces of history, though.

John Tenniel died on 25 February 1914.

A few examples of his cartoons, along with some of his best known illustrations.

In an arena formed of cotton bales, President Lincoln (still shown as clean-shaven) and the newly-elected President of the Confederate States, Jefferson Davis, square off as gladiators before an audience comprised of black slaves, one of whom sits in imperial state [cf. April 29, 1865]. The caption’s reference to “Emperor Caesar” may be ironically intended, as Caesar was a popular slave name.

The two combatants are armed with Bowie knives rather than the Roman gladius short swords. Each also has a pistol tucked into his belt, reflecting European perceptions about American violence and lawlessness (in many countries it was illegal for ordinary citizens to carry firearms). Lincoln holds a shield emblazoned with a representation of the national flag of the United States, while Davis’ shield bears the “Stars and Bars” flag. (See HERE)

  Widespread sympathy was felt in Britain for the grief  of the United States after Lincoln's assassination

 Father Neptune: Look here, my lass! You used to "Rule the Waves" but if you mis-rule 'em, as you've done lately, by jingo there'll be a row!!!
Britannia I'm sure I don't know who's to blame Papa dear!
Father Neptune: Don't know !!!  Then pipe all hands and find out!!!


Born in London on 28 February 1820. No time of birth available, chart set for 12 noon.

Sir John Tenniel had a natal Pisces/Aries blend - not as easy-going a blend as Pisces/Aquarius I'd have thought. Creative dreamer blended with enthusiastic initiator. His Aries bits must have felt like a regular alarm bell constantly waking him from dreaminess. In his early years he did train, under his father's tuition, in a variety of athletic activities - this relates well to the Aries flavour in his chart. I haven't read much about the kind of man he was - or was perceived to be. From his artwork we have to assume he had a continuing sharp interest in political matters, and put this to use via his undeniable talent for drawing. His "Alice" book illustrations, though they brought him fame, were not really what he was about. Cartooning and politics seem to have been his first loves.

Sun, Mercury and Jupiter lay in Pisces, sign ruled by Neptune, and reflect his creativity, whether via his drawings of Alice's adventures, or illustrating the vagaries of political life in 19th century Britain and elsewhere.

Natal Saturn (law, authorities etc.) at 0 Aries, degree known as The Aries Point, a powerful degree, might offer a clue to his keen interest in political matters and interpretation of them in satirical fashion. Neptune conjunct Uranus on the Capricorn/Sagittarius cusp, though in itself a generational aspect, because the conjunction lay in helpful sextile to Tenniel's natal Jupiter, which conjoined his Sun/Mercury, adds a touch of the unexpected (Uranus) to this artist's creative (Neptune) gifts.

Without a time of birth Moon's exact position isn't known, other than that it would have been in Leo or Virgo as he was born. I don't have a reasonable guess to offer!


mike said...

His Venus in detriment, with Saturn and Mars in fall, made me curious about his private life...not much mention in blurbs about him for some reason...married for two years, then wife died. His father was responsible for the blinding:

Seems an odd juxtaposition for a political cartoonist to illustrate Carroll's two books for children, but "The Diagnosis of Art" infers there is much adult, political corollary at work in Carroll's prose and Tenniel's drawings:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Agreed - there's hardly anything available relating to Tenniel's private life and personality. In an old book "Life and Works of Sir John Tenniel" by Cosmo Monkhouse there's mention that Tenniel was a wee bit upset when critics accused him (due to his cartooning style) of having no sense of fun..."they deny me everything but severity, dignity and classicality. Now I believe that I have a very keen sense of humour....".

After his wife died he didn't re-marry; lived with his sister, at least in his later years.

Tenniel retained a courteous professional friendship with Dodgson, though the pair were often in dispute about how to best illustrate Dodgson's whacky characters.

I've always thought there was an undercurrent of political imagery in Dodgson/Carroll's stories. Dodgson was quite politically-minded - he read "Punch" regularly - that's how he came across Tenniel's artwork. So if he had impressed Tenniel in this way, it becomes more understandable that the artist would consent to illustrate the books.

I hadn't realised though (thanks for the link) that Carroll's stories might have some basis in historical fact (or maybe Shakespearean tales of history). But, if true that the stories were written versions of "off-the-cuff" tales Dodgson told to little Alice Liddell, then it's not surprising that he (an academic, well-read) might have used historical knowledge or ideas from older literature, for inspiration - kings, queens, situations, etc.

There's an old post on Lewis Carroll and his chart:

mike (again) said...

BTW - I noticed your sidebar regarding internet neutrality. I suspect it's a lose-lose whichever way the decision was determined. Yes, I'm glad net neutrality is now governed as a utility, but if you read some of the blurbs, it won't be truly regulated, eg price-hikes will not be reviewed and will only be investigated upon consumer complaints...state and local districts can tax and surcharge this utility as a different category now. We'll have to see how this plays, but I suspect the telecoms will make their fortunes just as easily. The consumer always pays for the $50 billion annual bonuses each company provides for their executives. The financial sector bailout at taxpayers' expense showed that bonuses ARE a reason to hike prices through devious practices.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ (re net neutrality) Well... I thought I'd indicate a bit of thankfulness for small mercies! ;-)
I read a few comments at Common Dreams late yesterday, noticed several "downers". It's a bit the same as the XL pipeline veto by His Nibs - small mercy that could be overturned or gotten around in time by a fresh administration (or before).

BTW, last night on Netflix we encountered a few "go-slow" hiccups, wondered if it was payback. Couldn't access Russell Brand's "Messiah Complex" at all (it was newly available on Netflix yesterday.)Will try again tonight.

mike (again) said...

Re Netflix slowdown...I'm still with doggy problems, so I didn't indulge in Netflix last night. However, I had trouble when I clicked on the bookmark for your blog. I received a page stating your blog ( didn't exist...LOL...happened twice, then correctly linked on the third try. I used the same bookmark I always use...I knew you existed!

I had other problems on other sites like weird page-loads and if I used the "go back one page" arrow, I sometimes received an error. It hadn't occurred to me that payback was a possible correlation...LOL.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Poor GiGi and poor you, mike - I feel for ya. Can't bear to see any animal in distress, but especially a dog. I guess a visit to a vet is out of the question - they charge almost as much as doctors, I think?

Don't know what to think about internet and Netflix hiccups. We'll see if they continue.

mike (again) said...

I tried to make a vet appointment yesterday, but the earliest I could book an appointment was Saturday. I told them I'd call today to make an appointment for Saturday morning, if the problem continued. They advised me to feed GiGi steamed chicken breast with rice, which is considered very bland. Also, I dosed her Pepto-bismol (regular strength) at 2 mL, 5 X per day and they advised 6 mL, 5 X per day. The vet doesn't like to implement antibiotics and steroids without more certainty they are needed. As you discovered with your foot problem, a heavy-handed treatment regimen can lead to death (or make you feel like death is perhaps a better option...LOL). GiGi has improved today, so I think we can coast now, and I did not make a vet appointment. I don't know the cause, but I'll not be giving her any more beef liver treats!

You haven't mentioned your foot ulceration for a while. Is it in remission? Still wearing fuzzy slippers everywhere?

Twilight said...

mike ~ Phew -having an extra late night tonight - had to watch "just one mare" episode of "The Killing" - a very addictive series, once it got off the ground...took a while.

I shall keep all fingers crossed that GiGi continues well - or at least much better.

Thanks - the foot is healed, at last, and I can wear shoes (a certain style and need to be soft leather anyway - and that's another story - buying shoes on the net, then because they don't fit or are uncomfortable or hard as a board, & trying to get a refund.
Dang - but that is VERY frustrating! Head knocking on wall went on more than once today.)

Hug to GiGi please. :-)