John Tenniel

An anxious rabbit in a neat cross-hatched jacket and waistcoat, peering anxiously at a pocket watch, his umbrella tucked securely under his arm – illustrator John Tenniel has been bringing the White Rabbit and all the other fabulous and strange characters of Alice in Wonderland into being for generations of readers.

Despite being a student of the Royal Academy of Arts, John Tenniel’s extraordinary skill as a draughtsman and artist were largely self-taught, spending long hours in the British Museum and the zoo in London’s Regent’s Park drawing from life. His career properly took off in 1850 as a cartoonist for the influential satirical magazine 'Punch', for whom he ultimately contributed well over 2000 illustrations, rising to the position of chief cartoon artist and enjoying a lucrative, stable career.
The fabled origins of Lewis Carroll’s Cheshire Cat are typically numerous, ranging from a sandstone church carving near the Cheshire village of his birth to Guildford gargoyles and labels of cheese. Tenniel’s interpretation continues to be the definitive, eclipsing even the efforts of Disney in their 1951 'Alice in Wonderland' animated adaptation.
"Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
According to Simon Jenkins in the superb volume 'England's Thousand Best Churches', Tenniel drew inspiration for the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts from a medieval stained glass window depiction of Elizabeth de Mowbray, the Duchess of Norfolk, in a Suffolk church.
Strangely, the second volume in Alice’s adventures, ‘Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There’, marked the end of Tenniel’s involvement in narrative illustration. “It is a curious fact that with ‘Looking-Glass’ the faculty of making drawings for book illustrations departed from me, and… I have done nothing in that direction since,” he told Carroll. In 1893, Tenniel became the first cartoonist or illustrator to receive a knighthood.