By Jennifer Tisdale
The Ransom Center will be closed Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, and on Christmas Day, Friday, December 25. The Ransom Center Galleries will close early at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, Thursday, December 31. The Ransom Center will be closed on New Year’s Day, Friday, January 1. Read more
By Charley Binkow
From August 4 through November 29, the Harry Ransom Center hosts the exhibition Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West. It showcases more than 100 artworks by renowned artist Frank Reaugh (pronounced “Ray”) drawn from the Ransom Center’s own collection as well as public and private collections from around the state. The companion book Windows on the West: The Art of Frank Reaugh, edited by Curator of Art Peter F. Mears, complements the exhibition, and published by the Ransom Center and UT Press. Excerpted below is the foreward to the book, “Frank Reaugh in Retrospect,” written by Ron Tyler. In it, Tyler reflects on Reaugh’s life and the context of Reaugh’s distinguished career. Read more
By Peter Mears
From August 4 through November 29, 2015, the Harry Ransom Center hosts the exhibition Frank Reaugh: Landscapes of Texas and the American West. The showcase displays over 100 artworks by renowned artist Frank Reaugh (pronounced “Ray”). To complement the exhibition, a companion book is available titled Windows on the West, The Art of Frank Reaugh, edited by Curator of Art Peter F. Mears. The excerpt below is Mears’s introduction to the book, titled “Rediscovering the Art of Frank Reaugh.” In it, he describes Reaugh’s life, vision, and legacy as one of Texas’s most iconic artists. Read more
By Marlene Renz
Meet the Staff is a Q&A series on Cultural Compass that highlights the work, experience, and lives of staff at the Harry Ransom Center.
Peter Mears served in the United States Army before receiving his Bachelor of Fine Art degree from Cranbrook Academy of Art. After traveling through Central America he arrived in Austin and gained experience at what is now called the Contemporary Austin Museum. Mears joined the Ransom Center in 1995 and serves as Curator of Art. Read more
By Jennifer Tisdale
By Alexandra Bass
The titular heroine of Lewis Carroll’s whimsical classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass has changed to reflect the aesthetics of the times outside her fictional word. The fantastical nature of the story allows a certain freedom of temporality: although the narrative was written to occur in Victorian Britain, there are no specific indicators of the year, and the story could just as easily have been set in the twenty-first century. The changing visual depictions of Alice reflect this sense of timelessness. Having a contemporary-looking Alice makes it easy for younger audiences to relate to her and helps to explain Wonderland’s enduring popularity.
First published in 1865, Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations imagine Alice in a contemporary mid-Victorian pinafore, apron, and stockings. Tenniel’s depiction of Alice was the standard for the rest of the 1800s, but by the turn of the century, when the book went out of copyright, other illustrators reimagined the tale. Bessie Gutmann created Nouveau Alice in 1907, who wears a white, high-necked dress with full, long sleeves; her hair is long, swept up, and adorned with a flower.
In the 1920s Alice became a sporty flapper. Willy Pogany’s 1929 illustrations depict a lanky Alice, somewhat older than previous representations, wearing a short, plaid skirt, short sleeve top with a tie at the neck, and knee socks. Her hair is bobbed and boyish, as per the androgynous Jazz Age fashion.
Mid-century Alice reverts to the traditional, much like popular culture at the time. Disney released the animated Alice in Wonderland film in 1951, in which Alice dons a blue dress, white apron, and a black ribbon in her hair, very similar to Tenniel’s depiction. Subsequent illustration from the period shows Disney’s influence.
During the 1960s and ’70s, Alice adapts to the fashion of the period. One 1970 edition puts an older-looking Alice in a hot pink minidress with a Brigitte Bardot-esque bouffant; another illustration from the same year makes Alice look like she walked off of the set of The Brady Bunch, in a floral-accented minidress, knee socks, and long, straight hair.
The continued success of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is related to its ability to stay relevant and fresh to generations of readers. The story itself is not rooted in any particular temporal setting, and thus Alice has the ability to change her style to look like her readers. Although Alice was created in the Victorian era, she is anything but drab and prim: she is, more than many other literary heroines, thoroughly modern.
See examples of some of these book covers in the Ransom Center’s current exhibition Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, on view through July 6. Share “Thoroughly Modern Alice” with #aliceinaustin.
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