"In the 1840 exhibition, Carroll discovered a treasure trove of curiosities that is sure to have inspired him as a writer. It's quite possible that he saw the dodo which is now on display in our new gallery." - Roger Jeffery
Renowned Alice in Wonderland artist Frances Broomfield is currently working on several new Alice paintings to celebrate the global, national and local events being orchestrated by the Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA) in the fall of 2015 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Carroll's beloved Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Meanwhile, if you have a vivid imagination and are an ardent Alice in Wonderland fan, you don't have to wait till then to see some of Broomfield's amazing work. A wonderful selection of her art is currently being exhibited at Warrington Museum & Art Gallery in England through May 31st 2014. The Warrington Museum asked Frances to produce a family exhibition to coincide with the launch of their new Cabinet of Curiosities gallery, which reinterprets the kind of museum display that Lewis Carroll would have seen when he famously visited an exhibition in Warrington in 1840. According to Roger Jeffery, Interpretation and Design Officer for the Museum, "In the 1840 exhibition, Carroll discovered a treasure trove of curiosities that is sure to have inspired him as a writer. It's quite possible that he saw the dodo which is now on display in our new gallery!"
I personally fell in love with Frances Broomfield's lush, distinctive and magnificent Alice artworks many years ago while wandering through Alice's Shop in Oxford city. Ultimately we connected and I included her work in The Real Alice In Wonderland book. I was delighted to catch up with her to learn more about her Alice exhibition, The Curious Invention of Lewis Carroll.
Frances, first of all tell me what Lewis Carroll's "Alice" books mean to you?
I feel a personal connection with the Alice books because I was born in Warrington, just a few miles from Lewis Carroll, i.e. Charles Dodgson's birthplace at Daresbury. As an artist, I find the Alice books an ongoing source of inspiration.
"To an imaginative child like Dodgson from a fairly isolated rural community, a visit to town must have been an exciting event, and what he saw in the five rooms of exhibits must have seemed like Wonderland." - Frances Broomfield
Be our tour guide for a moment. What can visitors to your Lewis Carroll Exhibition at Warrington Museum expect to discover when they visit?
My exhibition is entitled The Curious Invention of Lewis Carroll, and the theme of Invention runs throughout the show. The name Lewis Carroll was invented by Charles Dodgson. Lewis Carroll invented Alice and her adventures and I have invented my own versions of some of the scenes and characters in the Alice stories.
In my exhibition there are 12 Alice pictures on the walls (each Alice book has 12 chapters). My new painting, Alice and the White Rabbit, is displayed in its own cabinet. There is also a case displaying the books in which my work has been used, including The Real Alice in Wonderland by C.M. Rubin and Gabriella Rubin. There are different editions of the Alice books published by Oxford University Press, which have my artwork on the covers, other books by Hodder Headline, and a French version of Alice by Editions Gallimard, which has my White Rabbit on the cover.
I have also made a video to show during the exhibition, which commemorates a visit Charles Dodgson made, at the age of 8, from his home at Daresbury to an exhibition of objects of curiosity at Warrington in 1840. It is possible that what he saw there may have inspired some of the content of his later work.
I have also invented my own Looking Glass version of what young Charles Dodgson may have seen when he visited the 1840 exhibition. To an imaginative child like Dodgson from a fairly isolated rural community, a visit to town must have been an exciting event, and what he saw in the five rooms of exhibits must have seemed like Wonderland.
He had his silhouette portrait made, witnessed the Invisible Girl illusion, and saw a Phantasmagoria Lantern in operation.
I have imagined how these early experiences may have made a lasting impression, which might have been reawakened when he told the story of Alice's Adventures during the famous boating trip of 4 July 1862. This story was later written down at the insistence of 10 year old Alice Liddell, and then published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, using the pen name he invented - Lewis Carroll.
The idea of making a video for my exhibition was inspired by Charles Dodgson's own Magic Lantern shows, which consisted of images, interspersed with songs, nursery rhymes and poems. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star features in different versions throughout the soundtrack, leaving it to the viewer to wonder who or what the little star may be. Perhaps it was Alice Liddell: the real Alice. The little star was a kind of Invisible Girl.
What are some of your personal favorites in this exhibit?
My favorite part of the exhibition is the video, as it contains many of my paintings which have not been seen before and which gave me the opportunity to show work from my archive alongside my Alice pictures.
I also love seeing my work in printed form, on book covers, in magazines and newspapers, and this exhibition has allowed me to display items which the public seldom sees, as well as my brand new painting, Alice and the White Rabbit, which will eventually go on sale at Portal Painters London.
For more information on The Curious Invention of Lewis Carroll:
To visit the Warrington Museum:
Photos are courtesy of Frances Broomfield and the Warrington Museum and Art Gallery.
C. M. Rubin is the author of two widely read online series for which she received a 2011 Upton Sinclair award, "The Global Search for Education" and "How Will We Read?" She is also the author of three bestselling books, including The Real Alice in Wonderland, and is the publisher of CMRubinWorld.