Charles Blackman, Arthur Rackham and Alice

The answers to yesterday’s puzzle are:

Charles Blackman Australian Figurative Artist who died on the 20 August 2018. I can think of no better way to pay homage to this great creative spirit than through the painting Life is a Bowl of Chillies created by his friend Ivan Durrant who said of Blackman: You’re into his poetry, life, mood and love, boots and all. As Charles said to me on our first meeting in 1969, you can’t make art without love. To paint is to make love to the world. Please follow this link to read Durrant's thoughts on Blackman and his painting. Please take special note of Blackman's eye- this says it all!
(Credit: Essentials Magazine)

Blackman's son Auguste also paid tribute to his father naming him as the most generous of artists. "He painted our dreams. He painted the dreams of everyone," he said. "I've never met such a man who could channel emotion the way Charles did in the paint. ( And All on a Summer's Day.
(Credit: Pinterest)

Answer to the next part of the puzzle. Arthur Rackham English book illustrator who died 6 Sept 1939. This is a self portrait done in 1924. (Credit: Pinterest)

And the next question. Who was Alice? Some of you have now guessed. Yes, Alice in Wonderland. And how does she bind Rackham and Blackman together? Many of you will know that Arthur Rackham illustrated the 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Rackham’s illustrated version of Alice was published in 1907.

And where does Blackman fit in? He painted a remarkable series on Alice in Wonderland. Here we see The Pink Alice.
(Credit: Deutscher and Hackett)

So let us first look at the Alice works of Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) who ironically was in 1884, at the age of 17, sent on an ocean voyage to Australia to improve his fragile health, accompanied by two aunts. At the age of 18, he worked as a clerk at the Westminster Fire Office and began studying part-time at the Lambeth School of Art... Rackham had an uncommon gift for art from a young age. As a child, he would often stay up late, drawing by candlelight under the covers, and Alice in Wonderland was among the books that most stirred his imagination.( When he began drawing her this is how he perceived her image.

Publication of his full colour plates to Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle by Heinemann in 1905 brought him into public attention and his reputation was confirmed the following year with J.M.Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, published by Hodder & Stoughton. Eventually book illustrating became Rackham's career for the rest of his life. Amongst the books he illustrated were Gulliver's Travels and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, both 1900. (Wikipedia)

Here is a sample of Rackham's illustrations for Alice in Wonderland.


To enjoy more of Arthur Rackham's illustrations of Alice please follow this link.

In 1903 Rackham married his neighbour Edyth Starkie an established Irish portrait painter and sculptor who originally came from Ireland. From all accounts she was his greatest supporter and much of his success must be attributed to her dedication to Arthur and his talent. One would suggest, at the expense of her own potential.

As a little aside Lewis Carroll has the Mock Turtle speaking of a Drawling-master, an old conger eel, who came once a week to teach Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils. This is a reference to the art critic John Ruskin, who came once a week to the Liddell house to teach the children drawing, sketching, and painting in oils. The children did, in fact, learn well; Alice Liddell, for one, produced a number of skilful watercolours. Who are the Liddells? Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was told to Alice Liddell by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) as a story when on a boating trip. (Wikipedia)

I'm beginning to feel like I've gone down the Rabbit Hole and must resurface and show you some of the Alice works of Charles Blackman.

I really don't know why but I love Blackman's painting Feet Beneath the Table from his Alice series. So much can go on under a table, especially with feet! Stirs the imagination!
(Credit: National Gallery Victoria)

This painting illustrates Blackman's exploration of *the duality of life: innocence and experience, fantasy and fact, dreams and nightmares, beauty and savagery. (

The impetus for Blackman to paint Alice came through him hearing for the first time in 1956 the tale of
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was read by the BBC announcer Robin Holmes on a talking book that the artist’s wife, Barbara Blackman, listened to whilst suffering from progressive blindness. The story of Alice moving through a tableau of irrational situations, constantly frustrated by various events, paralleled Barbara’s own experiences, and Blackman painted the Alice pictures for Barbara and ‘to give sight to her poetry’. (F. St John Moore, Charles Blackman: Schoolgirls and Angels, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 1993, p. 19.)

And I love the implied symbolism in The Game of Chess. My memory is a little hazy but I think the references to chess are in Through the Looking Glass where the pieces come to life. Perhaps someone could enlighten us.

(Credit: Etching House)

Blackman loved painting flowers and many of the Alice images attest to this.
(Credit: The Guardian)

And look a Blackman cat!
(Credit: Angela Tandori Fine Art)

There is no better way to say farewell to Charles Blackman and Arthur Rackham than with this Blackman etching- A Farewell to Alice.

Charles Blackman was a member of the Antipodeans, a group of Melbourne painters that also included Arthur Boyd, David Boyd, John Brack, Robert Dickerson, John Perceval, and Clifton Pugh. He was married for 27 years to author, essayist, poet, librettist and patron of the arts Barbara Blackman. They divorced and Blackman twice more.

The first edition of Alice in Wonderland was illustrated by John Tenniel.

The Hero Image today is Alice by Charles Blackman as publicised on Pinterest.

Anne Newman

Oil Painter in realistic genre style, predominantly buildings and people. To continue the discussion contact Anne on or phone +61 407 516 522

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

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