NEWS
14/12/2011 06:13 GMT

Alice In Wonderland At Tate Liverpool: A Peep Through The Looking-Glass (PHOTOS)

Down the rabbit hole and into the art gallery, Alice In Wonderland at Tate Liverpool takes you on a historical exploration of how Lewis Carroll's timeless novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, have influenced the visual arts.

It's not an exhibition piled high with Alice In Wonderland memorabilia. However, you will find your fair share of teapots and copies of Carroll's stories, translated into dozens of different languages. Plus his original manuscript, that the real Alice - Alice Lidell - kept hold of until 1929.

You also won't see endless nods to Hollywood takes on Alice, such as Mia Wasikowska's 2010 Alice, alongside Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter. The exhibition is housed by the Tate, and thus focuses on the adoption of the story as an inspiration for artists and the revision of its key themes by artists up to the present day.

Some of the most recognisable portrayals of Alice include Anna Gaskell's striking photography, staging a girl dressed in a yellow dress and blue pinafore in a garden. Whereas other artwork on show, such as Mary Heilman's Go Ask Alice, has a much more complex and unclear link to the famous books.

This intriguing and thorough exhibition, which took curators Gavin Delahunty and Christopher Benjamin Schulz two and half years to curate, tells the complete story of how Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's ninety page manuscript - originally intended as a private Christmas present - became a bestseller that was to cast an enduring spell over children and adults alike.

Dodgson, best known as Caroll, was at the time of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, recognised only for his portraits of friends, acquaintances and above all children. The exhibition showcases these early works and then continues on a journey through the decades looking at the art that has been inspired by his vision and stories.

From the similarities between the innocence of his art and the likes of Pre-Raphaelite artists, such as John Everett Millias, on to the other-worldy work of the surrealists.

Surrealism was the first art movement that seriously engaged with Alice in the twentieth century, going as far as to call Carroll their "surrealist ancestor". The movement fitted perfectly with the concept of the dream-travels Alice experienced in Wonderland and the way time and space became interchangeable and duration and distance unreliable. The works of Max Ernst, Paul Nash and John Armstrong, along with Salvador Dali's trippy series of 12 Alice in Wonderland prints are all on show.

The exhibition shows how each age reinvents Alice as its own, the Sixties saw her as a psychedelic pin-up for hippies everywhere and "chasing the white rabbit" became slang for taking LSD.

However, in some periods, such as the seventies, it is impossible to tell what influence Carroll's books had on the art.

2012 marks the 150th anniversary of that "golden afternoon" when Dodgson – boating from Oxford to Godstow with young Alice - thought up the story that would become Alice in Wonderland, if there was a ever a time to visit an exhibition solely based around Alice In Wonderland, that time is now.

Alice in Wonderland at Tate Liverpool runs until 29 January 2012. Admission: £8.00/£6.00 (Gift Aid with donation).