More Than a Fairy Artist: Margaret Tarrant

Margaret Winifred Tarrant (1888–1959) was born in Battersea, England, on 19th August, 1888. She was the only child of Percy Tarrant, who was a famous landscape painter, and Sarah Wyatt.

There are no detailed biographies about the artist, despite her fame and prolific output, though we do know that she started her studies at Clapham High School and after graduating in 1905, continued her education at the Clapham School of Art. She briefly studied teaching, however her father believed she was unsuited to this profession and redirected her attention towards painting. Once established as an artist she studied at Heatherley’s School of Art from 1918 till 1923, as she believed a new school would improve her technique.

Margaret Tarrant - (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant – (Unknown Title) (1916)

Margaret Tarrant - Dream Ships (date unknown)

Margaret Tarrant – Dream Ships (date unknown)

Tarrant’s first published works were Christmas cards and in 1908 she illustrated her first book, an edition of The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. The following year she created a series of paintings that were published as postcards by C.W. Faulkner. Over the next decade the artist continued to paint for various postcard publishers and also made illustrations for several books. Many of these works were exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Walker Royal Society of Artists and the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists.

Margaret Tarrant - Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Prim Told Him Her Story (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant – Peter and Friends (1921)

Margaret Tarrant - Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Good Morning Little Red Riding Hood (1951)

During the 1920s fairies became popularised, helped by the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book Do You Believe in Fairies? and Tarrant was a major part of this scene. During this decade she collaborated with Marion St. John Webb on a series of fairy books, which displayed images of fairies along with short stories and poems. The books were similar to Cecily Mary Barker’s, both artists were friends, however they differed as Tarrant’s pictures were less naturalistic, more stylised and in the Art Nouveau style. Fairy stories were not the only type of paintings that the artist produced, she also created illustrations for children’s stories, books about animals, poems and verses. Additionally, she created a series of wild flower postcards, that she considered to be her best work, and religious themes appeared often. Many examples of her religious paintings can be found in this Flickr album.

Margaret Tarrant - Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Sycamore (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Grapes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Yellow Horned Poppy (1920s)

After 1920 the artist was working almost exclusively for the Medici Society, who turned her paintings into postcards, calendars, greeting cards and prints. In 1936 the Society sent her on a holiday to Palestine where she enjoyed sketching landscapes and street scenes, two subjects that she rarely painted prior to this trip.

Margaret Tarrant - The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – The Animals That Talked (1951)

Margaret Tarrant - Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant – Shepherd Pipes (1920s)

Margaret Tarrant - Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

Margaret Tarrant – Toinette Sat Very Still (1951)

During the 1940s Tarrant slowed her output, though she did donate a lot of paintings to the war effort and produced images for about six books. With her health and eyesight deteriorating she stopped working in the mid-1950s and died from Multiple Myeloma in July 1959, leaving some pictures to friends and the rest of her estate to twelve charities.

The artist worked in many media, including pen, watercolor, graphite and silhouette type drawings. Her work is still popular today and the Medici Society is still selling prints on it’s website.

Without Hypocrisy: Maximilian Esposito

Maximilian Esposito was born in Milan in 1969 and developed a passion for drawing and painting as a child. He attended a Liceo artistico (artistic lyceum) high school, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1988. His early works represent populated dreamscapes of fantastic and mythological characters inspired by traditional fables of Europe.

Maximilian Esposito - Le Figure di Fantasia (1996) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Le Figure di Fantasia (1996) (1)

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Primo (1989) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Primo (1989) (1)

In 1992, he discovered the mural and had the opportunity to decorate private apartments and public places in Milan and surrounding areas. His style expressed his talent and interest in theatrical stage effects. In 1994, he traveled to New York City where he discovered a restaurant named Trompe l’Oeil (Optical Illusion) in Greenwich Village. Intrigued by the name, he managed to get a contract to completely repaint the walls and ceiling of that restaurant.

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Sesto (Alice in Wonderland) (1994) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Sesto (Alice in Wonderland) (1994) (1)

Afterwards, he returned to Italy and began to practice yoga, opening a new chapter in his life. He dedicated himself to this craft and began teaching in Milan until 2012. Making another big change, he moved to Paris, initially devoting himself to photography but then rediscovering the pleasure of drawing, illustration and painting. Between 2013 and 2015, he produced several murals and illustrations, mostly in black-and-white. Yoga and art complement each other in his life—yoga serving as an art form and painting, a form of discipline and meditation.

Maximilian Esposito - Mural, Chaville, France (2013)

Maximilian Esposito – Mural, Chaville, France (2013)

In his youth, he loved to draw young girls—the classic Lolita one might say. But however provocative and erotic these may have been, they were never vulgar. The artist finds pornographic drawings banal and completely lacking in artistic depth. His greatest passion has been his indoor murals featuring female figures exclusively. Some have the quality of woodcut illustrations.

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Settimo (1995) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Settimo (1995) (1)

Maximilian Esposito - Disegni vari (1996) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Disegni vari (1996) (1)

Two stories that have fascinated him the most were Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. Although both stories have a fairy tale quality, they were creations of the last couple of centuries which carry with them a more modern perception of childhood. He had the idea of ​​creating an illustrated version of The Wizard of Oz in the early 1990s but never fully developed this project. Here are some conceptual drawings that reflect his special emphasis on medieval tradition.

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Sesto (Alice in Wonderland) (1994) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Sesto (Alice in Wonderland) (1994) (2)

Maximilian Esposito - Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (1)

Maximilian Esposito – Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (1)

Maximilian Esposito - Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (2)

After moving to Paris, he resumed his work as an illustrator and painter but this time focusing on the figure of the young boy. This little boy is androgynous, much more feminine than masculine, and its eroticism is a refined and dreamy. The artist cannot explain why his artistic sensibility has lead him to the young boy. It is simply a product of his imagination, having no parallels to his personal life.

Maximilian Esposito - Le petit garccedilon egravearmi les eacutetoiles (2015)

Maximilian Esposito – Le petit garçon parmi les étoiles (2015)

Although his subjects and backgrounds are fantastic, the artist manages to express his personality through his characters. They perform the role of pre-adolescents placed in different contexts. This age range offers the greatest emotional tension as they represent the transition between childhood and adulthood. It is the stage of life where the innocent games of youth give way to the anxieties of adult responsibility.

Maximilian Esposito - Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (3)

Maximilian Esposito – Dorothy e altri Disegni (1990) (3)

Maximilian Esposito - Disegni vari (1996) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Disegni vari (1996) (2)

What makes his illustrations stand out are the intriguing compositions and the surreal elements incorporated into the works.

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Settimo (1995) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Settimo (1995) (2)

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Primo (1989) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Primo (1989) (2)

Maximilian Esposito - Capitolo Quinto (1993)

Maximilian Esposito – Capitolo Quinto (1993)

Unfortunately, very few seem to appreciate this kind of artistry today. And finding people and publishers to hire him has been a frustrating endeavor. Finding a site like Pigtails in Paint has given him some hope that some may appreciate his style. Whatever the future may hold, he is determined to continue to express his artistic universe sincerely and without hypocrisy. Should he gain sufficient recognition, he will be able to continue working on projects for which he is best suited—namely those that feature older children with a delicate disposition.

Maximilian Esposito - Le Figure di Fantasia (1996) (2)

Maximilian Esposito – Le Figure di Fantasia (1996) (2)

Although the artist often chooses popular subjects, readers will undoubtedly have questions about context and interpretation. Pigtails will be delighted to publish some of the more apt examples. You can visit these sites (here and here) for more samples of the artist’s work or for contact information should there be a suitable commission available.

Given the large time and conceptual gap between Esposito’s older and newer work, the artist has decided to establish a web page focusing on his older unpublished material which may be of interest to Pigtails readers.

Maiden Voyages: December 2015

A Growing Chorus: I have been pleased to see new authors come forward with new ideas.  Despite whatever first impressions a visitor might have, this site is in fact about the portrayal of little girls in the arts and media.  That is a very broad mandate and it should be understood that we try not to favor one particular art form over another nor are we exclusively about child nudity.  I want to thank Dimitri, Moko and Journey Darkmoon for their recent contributions.  Tomorrow, a post on a young Lolicon artist is being published.  I like the idea of encouraging new talent.  Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t, but I don’t want it said that Pigtails in Paint did not give an artist or writer his or her chance.

See Alice for Yourself: The British Library has informed us that in addition to owning the original manuscript to Alice’s Adventures Under Ground by Lewis Carroll since 1948, it is now in digitized form and can be viewed online by members of the public in its entirety. This was the precursor to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland mentioned in the post ‘Alice: A Personal View’.

Appeal Accepted: I have been informed that Graham Ovenden’s appeal to have his material reevaluated has been accepted by the British courts.  There is no date set, but professional legal counsel will be at Ovenden’s disposal to assist this time.  The Metropolitan Police has still not returned the artwork and materials ordered by Judge Roscoe.

Relearning Aesthetics: One of our contributors, Susan Adler, has recently been concerned about the lack of education regarding the classic symbolic function of youth in artistic imagery.  She wants to reintroduce people to this uplifting pre-modern aesthetic and make an argument for its continued relevance in current and future art forms.  You can take of a look at her early efforts here.

Alphonse Mucha Page: We were contacted by Artsy about a new artist page dedicated to Alphonse Mucha.  It provides visitors with Mucha’s biography, over 25 of his works, exclusive articles and up-to-date Mucha exhibition listings. It also includes the requisite related artist and category tags and links to other contemporary artists.  Artsy’s stated mission is to make the world’s art accessible online.  You can view Pigtails’ post on Mucha here.

Stigma: When we published a post on Scott Affleck, he was making a go at establishing his own gallery in the U.S.  Despite a skilled presentation of the young girl as a mythic symbol, buyers mostly wanted paintings featuring mundane themes—not much of a challenge for a serious artist.  In response, Affleck is attempting to reach out to a more sophisticated European audience.  To add insult to injury, a recent article in the March-April 2015 issue of Radius Magazine discusses some of his award-winning art.  However, even though the article mentions the significance of his painting Progression, they did not include a picture.  It seems art magazines are reluctant to present images of the child nude, even if it is relevant to the subject at hand and is legitimate art.

Empowerment and Damage Control: It is interesting that from time to time a company’s product should receive some flak from concerned citizens.  Often it is about pollution or treatment of workers, but sometimes it is about the image of the product itself.  This is certainly the case with Barbie.  Mattel has recently launched an advertising campaign to make Barbie an expression of empowerment for girls.  A video which appears on YouTube, has the requisite charm and plays at the empowerment of little girls, but not too much as to threaten the adults.

A Quick Anatomy Lesson Revisited: I was pleased to get some artist details on an unidentified sculpture of a girl holding two dachshunds from one of our readers.  For those who are interested, the revised post can be seen here.

Elena and Sacha Kalis: Mother and Mermaid

Elena Kalis’ ancestry is Russian.  Sacha is her daughter, her muse, her model and born in the Bahamas.

She’s my muse and my little mermaid. -Elena Kalis, Digital Photo, November 2013

A natural mermaid who could swim before she could walk; a perfect underwater model. She understands very well what I want to capture in the image. It’s not easy to find models who are graceful and relaxed underwater. It’s a gift only few people possess. -Maha Majzoub, RAGMAG, November 2012

Elena still longs for Russian snow from time to time and the way she photographs may have some surprising parallels with the snow. But in the Bahamas she found a different kind of landscape, or rather seascape. There Elena lives with her family, on a small island, where Sacha grew up.

At first Elena painted.  But the sea around the Bahamas called her to a slightly different kind of art: “Digital cameras and software offer huge opportunities for new images previously impossible to produce.” and “The dreamless, weightless atmosphere allows for all kinds of setups that are impossible outside the water.”  A good marriage of two former impossibilities.

Sacha became her main and probably her first model.  She frequently models for her mother, if that is the right word for someone who was apparently born in the ocean and has since remained there. Rather than modeling, it would be better to say she floats and dives there—swims. The Bahamas are, as cliché would have it, a paradise, but not so much above water as under it, a world less known by human beings.

It is as if somehow the underwater world is a more suitable decor for Alice, to Elena, a Waterland rather than a Wonderland to be found by a fall into the rabbit hole. The underwater world translates beautifully into Alice’s other mode of transport, the looking-glass.

Elena Kalis - Looking Glass (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Looking Glass (2010)

Under water, Elena lets her Alice play with all kinds of props from Carroll’s Alice stories. By reaching through the watermirror, Alice is reaching for a sphere of otherness, while she herself somehow remains the same in these surroundings.  She is still recognizable as Alice, in another of her many drawn, filmed, photographed and rewritten variations.  The timing of Kalis’ Alice is opportune as Sacha was about the right age to play that character as conceived by Carroll.  The movements of Kalis’ characters in clear, still water convey a dreamy, happy sphere—though she has sometimes portrayed the dark side of the sea.  But this is not like the dark sea of the movie The Piano, but rather a wild one—another kind of dream of the sea. The Piano (1993), was the debut of the 11-year-old actress Anna Paquin. She played Flora, daughter of the piano-playing Ada. The movie centered around Ada in the beginning and maybe a more wuthering sea suits Ada better while Flora could step into Sacha’s world more easily. But this image can also be somewhat old-fashioned.  This idea seems worth another article, not merely about this film, but about the portrayal of the 19th century girl in films based on the novels of The Brontës, Dickens and Jane Austen.

Jane Campion - The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion – The Piano (1993)

While I looked at Elena Kalis’ images from time to time years ago, I imagined myself in the images themselves, never asking myself the what and how; it was as if I, for a while, was in that sea itself. Although in beholding, in water, it could have been both anywhere and nowhere.

Now that I have looked more deeply into it, the artist has aid she prefers to photograph in the sea itself, not in a swimming pool.  This fact is more recognizable with the grown-up Sacha photos than the child ones. It seems as though the images of Sacha as Alice, and other images of her as a child, take place in deeper sea than those with the grown-up mermaid, where more often a watermirror/underwater surface is visible. It is logical to shoot underwater to create the sense of a dreamy world and yet the surface is never far away.  “Shooting mostly on sunny days near the surface, Kalis attempts to use natural light as much as possible, sometimes enlisting the help of underwater Sola light” (Maha Majzoub, RAGMAG, November 2012) and “I photograph especially between twelve and four in the afternoon when the sunlight reaches the water vertically. For the same reason I prefer to work in the summer than in winter.” (Elena Kalis, Digifoto Pro, 2011)

This artistic impression of the imagery may be suggestive of the general idea of childhood as a dream state and the so-called adulthood more as reality. But what is more a dream? Alice? Or an example here out of the series ‘Life Style’?

Elena Kalis - Lifestyle (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Life Style (2012)

Alice in Waterland appears as though it is taken in a big aquarium, or simply a swimming pool—a photo studio placed underwater. The impression is that of a dream just before a state of waking or, with these utterly clear photographs, a lucid dream.

Elena Kalis - Alice Down the Rabbit Hole (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Alice Down the Rabbit Hole (2009-11)

The artist uses a Canon 5D Mark II in a waterproof housing, sometimes using a red underwater filter.  When working with adult models she can work underwater for about an hour but only 30 to 40 minutes with children.  Afterwards, she makes use of the techniques of PhotoShop. Despite the fact that she sometimes uses artificial light underwater and the shallow parts of the ocean can catch sunlight wonderfully, this alone is not enough for her to capture her characteristic colorfulness.

Beside playing with colour saturation, photographer and model use plastic inflatable animals, but filled with water so they’ll work better underwater—and they play with costumes.

“The waving movements that clothes make in the water, give interesting forms and light reflections. To get that waving movement, models only have to move calmly and spread the clothes. The rest comes naturally.” -Elena Kalis, Digifoto Pro, 2011

Elena Kalis - Alice (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Alice (2009-11)

Sacha also dressed up as the schoolgirl Raye Hino, better known as Sailor Mars, from the anime show, Sailor Moon.

Elena Kalis - Sailor Mars (Underwater Pet)

Elena Kalis – Underwater Pet (2011)

Sailor Mars from series Sailor Moon

Sailor Mars from series Sailor Moon

Elena Kalis - Sailor Mars (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Sailor Mars (2012)

Other series with Sacha as a child are in the same sphere, emotional fairy tales, but with titles derived from the elements from which it all takes place: ‘Ocean Life’, ‘Ocean Song’, ‘Liquid Joy’.

Elena Kalis - Ocean Life (Sacha Kalis with manatee) (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Ocean Life (Sacha Kalis with manatee) (c 2013)

Elena Kalis - Liquid Joy Pikaboo (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Liquid Joy Pikaboo (2011)

A variation on Alice in Waterland: ‘Neverland’.

Elena Kalis - Neverland (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Neverland (c2013)

The female element in her element: ‘My Fair Ladies’

Elena Kalis - My Fair Ladies (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – My Fair Ladies (2009)

But also about the other aspect of the sea: ‘Dark Tales’

Elena Kalis - Dark Tales (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Dark Tales (2011)

Sometimes the same series is released under slightly different titles, like ‘Dark Tales’ and ‘Dark Water’. Or sometimes the same pictures appear in different series, usually on different websites. With so many sites, it is not always clear what the relationship of her series to each other is. And many fine pictures like Atlantis seem merely to emerge via a Google search on sites that have no direct connection to Elena Kalis with unclear connection to a particular series.  So now an observer must try to deduce, immersed in all her images, a way of categorizing, hoping it will make sense emerging as if from the sea.

Elena Kalis - Atlantis (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Atlantis (2008)

The dream goes beyond just the image, but the dream of a better world.  Even the Bahamas is influenced by a corrupted world: the globally rising sea levels, an oil refinery in nearby Venice, oil leaks, floating plastic that gets into the food chain, etc.  Elena has produced ample work which appears on several sites and on social media.  The importance lies in the images themselves, any comments usually short and complimentary.

Digging with a pen and writing in the seabed leaves few traces behind. But doubtless there are reasons why Elena photographs women and girls.

“Female characters are prominent in my work, as I love to explore the softer and more feminine side of underwater photography. My images flit back and forth between happy and sad, dark and dreamy, but I always stay true to the elements that inspire me. I am inspired by the way that humans can interact with the elements underwater, as well as they can move. It allows for a more fluid and dreamlike way of capturing motion.” -Elena Kalis, The Practice, 2013

I would hang these these photographs in my house just like that and not just above my bed or couch. Here and there in the house there would be a little bit of Waterland mixed in with dry land, possibly crisscrossing just like an aquarium. And maybe an added touch with Alice and Sailor Mars or Sacha as minidolls.  Happily, I would not be constrained with only showing the more heavy portrait photography.

What more is there to say than that Elena in her Alice, Sailor Mars, Liquid Joy, Stingrays, Manatees and Neverland, imagines a girlworld that is perfectly appropriate for adults? Elena imagines a feminine sea in which her daughter and other girls and women can still express whatever beauty still remains of the Earth. And now there are these snapshots of beauty which may last forever. In her photography she has, in a manner of speaking, created and experienced growth, with her daughter.

She does not see her art as work; it is her style of life. Does she regard that reality underwater as a dream?   I imagine creating these images captured from her own unconscious is not easy.

Dimitri is a guest writer from the Benelux region.  He did his best to translate things into English, so I had to do some editing to make it more coherent to English readers.  I hope I did it justice.  Also, any more biographical information on the Kalises and dates of the artwork would be very much appreciated.  -Ron

Book featuring Elena Kalis’ work edited by Jock Sturges

Other sites featuring her work here

Online articles on Elena Kalis (some in German and Dutch) here

Elena Kalis’ YouTube channel

Maiden Voyages: October 2015

Halloween is Pip’s favorite holiday so I expect he has a few special things planned for us this month.  I tend to be less sentimental about such things, but I do plan to complete a post on Nan Goldin.  She just came out with an amazing new book and I know Pigtails readers would like a peek.

Ionesco Revelations: A reader has been updating me on a new book by Simon Liberati (Eva Ionesco’s husband since 2013) about Eva’s childhood.  The timeliness of this release has pressured me to put together a post on Irina Ionesco (the photographer) and her daughter (the model).  According to interviews and press releases (in French), Irina’s use of Eva was coerced and there remains a lot of bad feelings.  Because the book puts Irina in a bad light, she attempted, unsuccessfully, to prevent its publication through the courts. These circumstances puts Pigtails in an ethical dilemma.  Our journalistic obligations compel us to offer an overview which would necessarily include some of the photographs in question.  But it is also our wish to respect the feelings and reputation of Eva and avoid causing her distress needlessly.  After some deliberation, I have decided to postpone the Ionesco post until I can more clearly ascertain the model’s position about how this story should be told.

Alice’s Anniversary: As mentioned before, this is the sesquicentennial of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  One project is to publish a special edition of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the basis of the final Wonderland story.

Lewis Carroll, Photographer?  While trawling the internet, Pip found a site with some interesting photographs.  The weird thing is that two of them are attributed to Lewis Carroll. First of all, photographs by this artist should properly be attributed to Charles Dodgson, not “Lewis Carroll”.  More importantly, a quick look at these scans indicates a classic Edwardian style and methodology.  Take a look for yourself at these red herrings and I wouldn’t mind someone coming forward with the name of the real artist.

[20160201] An associate has discovered the true identity of the first image and given Durieu’s recognizable style, it is likely that he is responsible for the second image as well.

Lewis Carroll...not! (1)

Jean Louis Marie Eugène Durieu – (Title Unknown)

Lewis Carroll...not! (2)

Lewis Carroll…not! (2)

Wearing Nothing but a Tiara: There is no shortage of cute photos on the internet.  Here’s one called ‘La Princesse aux Escargots’ (The Princess of Snails).

The Virtues of Monsters: Although the purpose of this site is to cover the arts and media, it would be naive not to recognize that pedophiles visit this site and I felt it would be of service to mention something that came across my desk.  It seems there is a schism between two groups of pedophiles who disagree over the ethics of sexual contact between adults and children.  To keep the loud-mouthed extremists from dominating the debate, a more moderate group started their own forum that strikes a balance between acknowledging this kind of sexual orientation—if that is the proper expression for it—while respecting the rights of children not to be molested.

S.A.: The Disney Girls

As mentioned in my very first Pigtails post, I spent my young adulthood in the U.S. Army. And even though I lived under the rigors of military discipline, it was a time of relative freedom for me. My platoon sergeant had a huge collection of Disney films which he brought so we would have something to watch while we were living temporary barracks. Like most people, I assumed cartoons were just for kids and were not very sophisticated, but these Disney shorts had a humor that could only be appreciated by adults. Walt Disney was not producing films for kids, he was producing them for himself. I became fascinated with the evolution of the Disney Studios and read everything I could get my hands on. I read in one account that Disney wanted to prove that a full-length animated feature was possible and would be respected by the general public. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was the first of these efforts. It was important to him that the characters be believable and not just caricatures. To that end, he challenged his animators to make every effort to pay careful attention to detail and find a way to give the heroes and heroines sex appeal. Of course, in those days it was not acceptable to say the word “sex” in mixed company and thus when referring to this mandate, they would say “S.A.” which today seems an amusing constraint. This post is dedicated to those early Disney girls with S.A. No more passing off Mickey Mouse with a bow, skirt and pasted eyelashes and calling him Minnie!

The interesting thing about studying Disney animation is that the Disney Studios were pioneers and one can watch the evolution of that medium. Early attempts did manage to make their lead female characters pretty, but not especially alluring. Probably the first characters to fit this description were the centaurettes from Fantasia (1940). They are fantasy creatures but some attempt was made to make them look “right”. Here is a page with a few concept designs.

Disney Studios - Concept Designs (late 1930s)

Disney Studios – Concept Designs (late 1930s)

After Disney approved the concepts, the animators would make a more fine-tuned sketch that showed the final appearance of the character. Since this will be used to produce the final animation, the placement of the dark lines is very deliberate.

Disney Studios - Final Outline Sketch (c1940)

Disney Studios – Final Outline Sketch (c1940)

Then there are animators who draw the final cleaned-up sketch, in-betweeners who draw the intermediate motions of the characters and a team of women who color the cells.

Edit: For a comprehensive list of the artists who worked on ‘The Rite of Spring’ segment of Fantasia, please refer to this page. – Pip

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (1)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (1)

I was surprised at the popularity of this iconic pose and this creature is now a figurine.

Centaurette Figurine

Centaurette Figurine

Part of the fun of the early Disney work is the little bits of “business” he has each character do and there are a lot of recurring gags and play on stereotypes that are amusing to an adult audience. One of Disney’s other early mandates is that his characters have distinct personalities. After the centaurettes groom themselves, they get all worked up about the boys coming for a visit so they can all frolick together, but one poor centaurette is without a match until she is discovered by one of the remaining boys.

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (2)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (2)

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (3)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (3)

There are even zebra centaurettes accompanying a Dionysian character—all of this to the music of Beethoven’s 6th “Pastoral” Symphony.

Disney Studios - Fantasia (1940) (4)

Disney Studios – Fantasia (1940) (4)

Animators may have been talented artists, but that did not mean they were well-educated on anatomy. About the time of the release of Fantasia, Disney had animals brought in as models for them to study and the first film to show this off was Bambi (1942). From then on, even female animal characters had a certain feminine allure: Bambi’s mother and Faline (Bambi), Lady (Lady and the Tramp (1955)) and Perdita (101 Dalmatians (1961)).

Once the ancient Greeks learned to make large statues from the Egyptians, they then pushed for anatomical perfection. The 1950s were an analogous time for the Disney Studios by which time they routinely accomplished this level of believability. Also, until then, any female leads were young women, not really girls, so we see our first two examples voiced by the same girl, Kathryn Beaumont.

Disney Studios - Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Disney Studios – Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Disney Studios - Peter Pan (1953)

Disney Studios – Peter Pan (1953)

Of course in Peter Pan we also get Tinkerbell, the quintessential animated sex pot who creates some mischief because she is jealous about all the attention Peter is giving Wendy.

Disney Studios - Peter Pan (animation cell)

Disney Studios – Peter Pan (animation cell)

After artists become accustomed to producing anatomical accuracy, they want to play with the forms and so in the late 1950s and 1960s we begin to see an angular style in Sleeping Beauty (1957), 101 Dalmatians and Jungle Book (1967) which was in production when Walt Disney died.

Disney Studios - Jungle Book (1967)

Disney Studios – Jungle Book (1967)

After that, there was a period when the studios attempted to anticipate Disney’s wishes: The ArtistoCats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973) were in the concept stages. Once business interests got control of the studio—changing the name to The Disney Company—animated features were produced more rapidly, but with a more formulaic system that established schedules and deadlines.

Alice: A Personal View

It was my intent after publishing the Graham Ovenden post to then move on to his other relevant work. However, while considering his book, Illustrators of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” (1972), I was urged to cover a much more comprehensive volume recently published, Illustrating Alice: An international selection of illustrated editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass published by Artists’ Choice Editions in 2013.

I wanted to call this post ‘The Definitive Alice’ but the book itself admonishes its readers from regarding it that way. It is a fair argument because, after all, it only covers illustration despite including a lot of discussion about the stories and their interpretation. And instead of trying to be thorough in covering all views, we get a wonderful spectrum of personal anecdotes and revelations from artists, collectors and other lovers of Alice lore including the more prominent members of Lewis Carroll societies around the world.

Given that a definitive book on Lewis Carroll’s two stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), would require a multi-volume encyclopedia, Illustrating Alice does remarkably well, bringing out many imaginative key points. The Alice stories (and their ethnic adaptations) have been published in over 100 languages and, in proportion to total word count, are more often quoted in published works than the plays of Shakespeare. Illustrating Alice has an interesting organization. First, some discussion of Alice in different countries is offered, then numerous living illustrators were asked to discuss their experiences and views. There is also some discussion of film adaptations. For serious Alice lovers, this book is an important reference and I offer a more detailed outline of the contents of the book at the end of this post.

With respect to offering fresh interpretations of Alice, it should be recognized how challenging it has been to see past Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations in the original books and to fruitfully psychoanalyze Carroll’s original intent.

Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Sir John Tenniel - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Sir John Tenniel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Due to copyright rules, new versions of Wonderland could not be produced by other publishers until 1907 (and Looking-Glass until 1946). In the U.K. there were already 30 new editions by the end of 1908. Millicent Sowerby had the distinction of being the first to have her illustrations published. Publishers would gradually compete to produce the most opulent editions. W.H. Walker was the first to include scenes not given in the original Tenniel and Harry Rountree had the record for the most color images published, 92. Two of the most popular editions were by Raphael Tuck: one based on early Mabel Lucie Attwell work in 1910 and then a more innovative approach in 1921 based on the work of A.L. Bowley giving us the first examples of pop-ups and a panorama scene with slots to place each of the supplied cut-out characters.

Arthur Rackham - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Arthur Rackham – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

During World War II, there was a dearth of publishing because of paper rationing. One notable exception was the work of Mervyn Peake. He produced illustrations for both Alice books which were first published in Sweden in 1946, then in the U.K. in 1954. His images, considered among the best by many experts, were modeled after a neighbor girl named Caroline Lucas who, he believed, had just the right qualities. The high regard for his work is exemplified by a quote from Graham Greene, “You are the first person who has been able to illustrate the book since Tenniel.” This is even more remarkable when one considers that Greene was generally opposed to the idea of illustrating great literature at all. The work has since appeared in many editions while the original art deteriorated from neglect.

Libanus Press was later commissioned by Bloomsbury Publishing to take up the challenge of scanning the original drawings and putting in about 240 hours of computer work to restore them. The results were published in 2001 and shortly thereafter Libanus published them with the title Peake’s Alice in actual size each accompanied by an appropriate quote. One of the first artists to break through the Tenniel paradigm was Ralph Steadman in 1967, with a freer and highly political take on the story. In the 1970s, Alice became a kind of poster child for the Ruralists, symbolizing an appeal to nature. The most notable of those were by Peter Blake and Graham Ovenden—the Ovenden works being bound into a volume with only 10 copies in existence. This incredible range of production is indicative of the fact that illustration seems to be the last art form that can be produced without need of government grants or powerful patronage.

Mervyn Peake - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

Mervyn Peake – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

In the early days in France only the images of Tenniel and Arthur Rackham were seen. In 1930, the first native illustrator, Marie Laurencin, was published in a limited edition (790) with six colored lithographs. As Alice was assimilated into other cultures, her character would change. Henry Morin (1935) drew an Alice who seemed ill at ease while André Pécoud (1935) portrayed a more mischievous Alice who took delight in her adventures. Nicole Claveloux’s (1974) work is considered a watershed of modern French illustration offering a non-conformist Alice and a special affinity for the animal characters in the story. Her plate with the flamingos became so iconic that it was the basis of a postage stamp in Czechoslovakia. Jean-Claude Silbermann (2002) gives a highly surreal interpretation while Pat Andrea (2006), a noted artist of erotic women, necessarily makes Alice a young woman.

Marie Laurencin - Alice in Wonderland (1930)

Marie Laurencin – Alice in Wonderland (1930)

The first Alice stories in Italy were adapted by Teodorico Pietrocòla-Rossetti—nephew of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and a friend of Carroll—in 1872. This edition was not well-received. The first book featuring an Italian illustrator, Riccardo Salvadori, came out in 1913. Because there was not an established culture of children’s literature in Italy yet, Salvadori’s work, imitating that of Arthur Rackham, meant that this genre was strongly influenced by the Anglo-Saxon imagination. In 1938, under fascism, Carroll’s Alice books were banned. Any publisher wishing to publish had to follow certain guidelines. Perhaps the most famous version was illustrated by Enrico Mercatali (1938) who introduced an older dark-haired girl consistent with the appearance of local girls. In the 1950s, the blond Alice reappeared, partly as a backlash to fascist rules and partly because of the popularity of Disney’s animated film in 1951. In the 1970s, Gianni Celati (1978) used Alice as a symbol of counter-culture and Antonio D’Agostini (c1975) gave a psychedelic interpretation which fits well with Carroll’s fantastical imagery.

Enrico Mercatali - (Exact title unknown) (1938)

Enrico Mercatali – (Exact title unknown) (1938)

During the publishing of the Alice stories, the United States was generally regarded as an ugly stepchild of Britain and something of a rogue nation when it came to respecting copyright. A print run regarded as unsatisfactory by Carroll was sent to the U.S. in 1865. At least half a dozen companies sold pirated editions between 1892 and 1907 before the official expiration of copyright. They all used the Tenniel illustrations but would hire an illustrator for the cover and maybe a frontispiece. Interestingly, the Thomas Crowell edition in 1893 included the first instance of an Alice in a blue frock which became established as her signature color; all images and merchandise approved by Carroll had required the girl to be in a corn-yellow dress. A few publishers did use original work by American illustrators. Blanche McManus was distinguished as the first in 1899 for her husband’s company and Peter Newell in 1901, whose characters display an amusing array of facial expressions and interactions. M.L. Kirk’s rendition in 1904 is somewhat conventional but uses the correct color for Alice’s dress.

After the copyright expired, the floodgates opened and a number of notable American illustrators had their work published including Bessie Pease Gutmann (1907), a single illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith (1923) and Willy Pogány (1929). Walt Disney was obsessed with the story of Alice for a long time, experimenting with various treatments and designs until finally producing the somewhat unsatisfactory film in 1951. The film’s popularity had a stifling effect on innovation in the following decades. David Hall’s paintings and drawings for Disney in the 1930s did finally see the light of day in 1986 and Mary Blair’s concept art for the original film was the basis for a 2008 book.

Perhaps the first satisfactory book after this stagnant period was published in 1982, illustrated by Barry Moser and intended for adult readers. He may have been a bit gun shy of portraying the now iconic Alice and she appears only in the first and last pages as though the reader were observing things from her point of view. A number of prolific and imaginative artists have worked on Alice since then and are really too numerous to name here. An interesting historical note is that the first comic book, a distinctly American art form, was published in 1929 by George Delacorte whose fortune was later used to fund the statue in Central Park. To date, the only edition to be illustrated by a Canadian, George Walker, was produced in 1988 and may also have the distinction of being the last to be set by hand.

Bessie Pease Gutmann - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Camille Rose Garcia - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

Camille Rose Garcia – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

U.S. fans and collectors of Lewis Carroll paraphernalia contributed substantially to the scholarship and preservation of the author’s work. Lessing J. Rosenwald donated a handwritten and self-illustrated manuscript of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures under Ground to the Library of the British Museum in 1948 which can now be viewed in its entirety online.  A copy of ‘The Wasp in a Wig’, a lost chapter to Looking-Glass, was discovered and published in 1972 and Morton Cohen’s biographical research on Carroll is considered to be definitive.

Alice was first introduced to Brazil by Monterio Lobato in the early 1930s using original illustrators (Tenniel and Bowley). He started with an illustration of a fantasy world including Wonderland, Neverland etc. and one from his own stories which translates as “Yellow Woodpecker Ranch”. A number of artists have used collages made from everyday materials to add cultural texture to their work. An example is Helena de Barros (Helenbar) who sewed her own dress and incorporated herself in her images.

Helenbar - A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

Helenbar – A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

The popularity of Alice in Japan cannot be understated. In fact, the Alice books and associated merchandise are now so popular that it could be said to be an industry in and of itself. The first Japanese illustrator was Shotaro Kawabata (1908). Kawabata imitated Tenniel somewhat but substituted Japanese everyday articles for Europeans ones. Often these treatments were introduced in magazine form rather than stand-alone books. The benefit seems to be that new artists, both writers and illustrators, have an easier way to become established and recognized.

Tsubakibana “Chinka” Yoshimura (1911) was probably the first to illustrate Alice using strictly Japanese patterns, techniques and composition principles. The early portrayal of Alice had a curious character. Because, in Japanese culture, girls have no real transition from childhood to adulthood, girls were portrayed as very young or very mature. Girl children were expected to act very dependent until a certain age and then suddenly expected to be responsible. The idea of a transitional coming-of-age girl was new and explored seriously only in post-war interpretations. Takashi Saida (1925) was perhaps the first to create a middle class Alice with the right balance of sophistication and uncertainty seen in the English versions. In the 1930s, the rising tide of nationalism and militarism influenced the expression in children’s books and there was a decline in sweet and innocent portrayals until after the war when all constraints on style and interpretation were obliterated. The first expression of Alice as a nymphet was in 1974 by Kuniyoshi Kaneko and many have carried on this theme, exploring Alice’s emerging sexuality.

Takashi Saida - ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Takashi Saida – ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Mainland China had a strange ordinance in 1930 which banned Alice on the silly notion that because the animals talked, it put them on the same level as human beings. Also mentioned in the text is the mystery of a strange edition produced in a short run in Inner Mongolia that seems to defy Chinese convention. Writers and artists are not usually credited in Chinese Communist publications. However, this adaptation not only gives this Taiwanese illustrator credit, but seems to be observing a more international form of copyright law.

Shi Huimin - 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

Shi Huimin – 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

In 1879, the first translation of Alice into Russian appeared featuring the art of Tenniel. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for this new literature and a number of editions were produced before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Under Soviet domination and particularly under Stalin, artists were regarded as engineers of utopian society rather than challengers of societal norms. Carroll’s works were banned outright simply because they emphasized fantasy and nonsense rather than serving a moral purpose—expressing Socialist Realism. Artistic institutions were integrated as government unions so no rogue artist could ever hope to get a commission or be published without state sanction. The principles of Soviet Communism continued to have a hold on the artistic process even after Stalin’s death.

There seemed always to be an attempt to bring a kind of order to chaos, either literally as in Aleksandr Dodon’s (2001) framing of the text with his illustrations or in some metaphorical way, making Alice the arbiter of morality in Wonderland and the Looking-Glass worlds. The fact that both stories take place in a template of game playing (cards and chess) gave Russian artists the comfort of structure and the application of rules. Julia Gukova’s illustrations break through this convention by making Alice more an integral part of Wonderland, undermining her ability to pass judgment on these dream worlds. The Russian truism that there is no absolute truth in narrative is perhaps the unifying theme of work in the region.

V.S. Alfeevsky - Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

V.S. Alfeevsky – Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

Aleksandr Dodon - Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

Aleksandr Dodon – Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

The first translation of Wonderland into Polish was in 1910 which included images by Tenniel mixed with an anonymous artist. The effect was confusing since the artist made no effort to match Tenniel’s design or style. It had only one edition and was quickly forgotten. Two later translations/illustrations that did have a lasting impact were by Kamil Mackiewicz (1927) and Olga Siemaszko (1955). As a caricaturist, Mackiewicz’s illustrations predictably exaggerated distinguishing traits of its characters.

A 1955 version was written by Antoni Marianowicz adhering to Communist cultural policy; any reference to class distinctions had to be toned down or reinterpreted. The particular genius of this work is that the English cultural references and poems were replaced outright by Polish ones that readers could relate to. And since Marianowicz was a humorist, this version was certainly more humorous than the original. Siemaszko also illustrated a 1969 version and there is a noticeable refinement in her technique. Most later Polish editions used mostly foreign illustrators and so there appears to be no distinctive Polish style. Only after the fall of Communism did native artists start to come to the fore. Ironically, some of the most recent editions again make use of the Tenniel drawings and so the younger generation is likely to have the same visual associations with the Alice books as their grandparents.

Olga Siemaszko - Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

Olga Siemaszko – Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

After discussing illustrations, the book covers film treatments of Alice. The most interesting is an essay by Jan Švankmajer who describes his relationship to Alice and how, in combination with his own childhood, it inspired the production of an independent film. His first foray into Carroll’s world was a 1971 film based on the poem Jabberwocky. He describes it as an imaginative history of his childhood up to the point when he rebelled against his father. The film opens with a child’s voice (his own daughter, Veronika, then aged 9 in the Czech version) quoting from Looking-Glass. Because the censors saw the film as containing political allegories, it was banned in Czecholslovakia and he made an English version in 1973 which traveled the globe. Only in 1989, was the original film finally seen in his home country.

Another film, inspired somewhat by Alice, was Down in the Cellar (Do pivnice, 1983) about a girl sent to the cellar to fetch potatoes and what happens to her there. Although the film was completed, it did not see the light of day for a number of years due again to censorship. Švankmajer emphasizes the importance of the dream imagery in our human development, a trait that has been long neglected because it served “no moral purpose”.

Finally, he decided to attempt Alice (Něco z Alenky ,1988). The filmmaker wanted to emphasize dream imagery but reminds us that dreams are also filled with familiar objects. All the voices, appropriately altered, would be done by the same child actress consistent with the theory that we are all the characters in our dreams. The idea is that Alice is the only live person in the film and there are no intrusions of adults in voice or body. The other characters were constructed from everyday objects from Alice’s world. The Czech studios took no interest in his work, so he got financing from foreign companies and enlisted the support of art institutions to give his work credibility. The filming was done using old discarded cameras and editing equipment and in 1986, the first Czech independent film saw the light of day. Then in 2006, a Japanese publisher asked him to illustrate both Alice books and he leapt at the chance.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice is one of the basic books of this civilization, one of those we should take with us to a desert island, just in order to survive.” –Jan Švankmajer (2011, translated by David Short)

Jan Švankmajer - Alice (1988)

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988)

Another essay discusses how Alice lends itself so well to animation. Considering the fantastical nature of the stories, it seems that only this medium would have any hope of effectively portraying these magical worlds. Kamilla Elliott, in her book Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate (2003), has identified over 50 film and television adaptations. As mentioned before, Walt Disney was obsessed with producing Alice very early on and in the 1920s, he experimented with a combination of live action and animation for Alice in Cartoonland. The 1951 film distinguishes itself by featuring an actual child’s voice—that of Kathryn Beaumont who also did Wendy in Peter Pan—as opposed to young women used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

A number of living artists shared their experiences illustrating Alice and the philosophy behind their approach. Michael Foreman, for example, noticed how few illustrators tried to make Alice look like the original Alice (Liddell). He also made a deliberate effort to distinguish reality (sepia) from dream (color) and insists that the real background for Wonderland must be his native Cornwall. Barry Moser muses how the story is really about loneliness because of how often the words “alone” and “lonely” appear in the text. John Vernon Lord is a stickler and points out that in the actual text, “Mad” is not applied to any particular character but rather all characters in general. Over the years, we have inherited certain assumptions because of past illustrators: the Hatter is mad, the Hatter wears a hat with a price tag on it and that, at the Mad Tea Party, things other than tea are served. Tatiana Ianovskaia observes a lightly etched eroticism implied by the various metaphors of two things being one: most notably, how playing cards are a kind of marriage of two bodies sharing one space. The other artists featured were John Bradley, Chiara Carrer, Emma Chichester Clark, Gavin O’Keefe, DeLoss McGraw, Helen Oxenbury, Ralph Steadman and Justin Todd.

Tatiana Ianovskaia - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

Tatiana Ianovskaia – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

A short afterword, written by Graham Ovenden, comments on the modern estrangement between adults and children and that we are often deprived of the full potential of illustrators’ talent and imagination because of economic considerations.

Some of the contributors have observed some developments in the evolution of children’s books. First of all, they feel that there is a lack of charming little details. There is an assumption that children’s books should have simple illustrations. There also seems to be no adult market for illustrated books except in France and Russia. And one final observation is that with the onset of the digital age, Illustrating Alice may distinguish itself as the last time we see this kind of compilation in hard copy.

This post is quite timely as this year is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Illustrating Alice was published in a run of 500 for the Standard edition (68 for the Special edition which comes with signed prints) and can be purchased through the Inky Parrot Press. This publisher also sells other Alice volumes including a version where each illustration is from a different artist. For those wanting a more comprehensive analysis of the Alice texts and history should read one the editions referred to as The Annotated Alice.

Illustrating Alice summary of contents:

  • Foreword by Marina Vaizey
  • Alice in different countries: Brazil by Adriana Peliano, China by Richard Newnham, England, 1865–1939 by Selwyn Goodacre, England, 1940 to today by Dennis Hall, France by Michèle Noret, Italy by Caterina Morelli, Japan by Mikiko Chimori, Poland by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Russia by Ella Parry-Davies, United States and Canada by Mark Burnstein
  • Alice in Film: ‘Alice’ by Jan Švankmajer, ‘Animating Alice’ by Karen Lury
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (artists credited above)
  • Alice Through the Looking-Glass (collected illustrations only, organized by chapter
  • Alice: as through a Glass Darkly (afterword) by Graham Ovenden
  • Alphabetical Checklist of English Language Editions from the lists compiled by Selwyn Goodacre and Edward Wakeling
  • Index of Artists of non-English Language Editions and individual paintings

Louis Malle, Part 2: Black Moon

The first thing that strikes most people when they first watch Black Moon (1975) is that it is hard to follow. Any film or novel that makes extensive use of “stream of consciousness” narrative will not be comprehended by most people at first. So why do such things exist? My contention is that this is dream imagery—imagery from the subconscious—that an artist is compelled to express in an effort to understand it himself. Personal motivations aside, these creations do nevertheless have value to others because dreams make extensive use of archetypal symbols which we can all appreciate with proper education.

It is a little bit of a stretch to include this film on Pigtails in Paint. The lead character, Lily (Cathryn Harrison), is on the cusp of womanhood which is on the high side of our age range. However, the presence of naked children is a recurring motif and part of our agenda is to remove the stigma of such imagery in our culture. And Louis Malle makes extensive use of Lewis Carroll’s Alice imagery, so that makes this film appropriate in a number of tangential ways.

The opening shot is of a badger rooting around until Lily speeds by in a small car. She stops to look at it with a blank expression on her face. It is not clear at this point, but this establishes the idea that as a young woman, she is intimately connected to nature and is compelled to pay attention to it. As she continues her journey, she comes upon some military troops and watches as they execute some prisoners. There is the suggestion that this is a manifestation of a war of the sexes with the aggressors playing out the male role and the more passive women (and their male allies) playing the victims. The presence of the battle in the periphery throughout the film creates a convincing substrate of anxiety. I also feel it is a reflection of Malle’s experience as a boy in Vichy France—Au Revoir Les Enfants and Lacombe, Lucien are two excellent portrayals of the German occupation. One of the soldiers approaches her car and whisks off her cap; thus exposed, she drives off in panic.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (1)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (1)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (2)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (2)

On her way, she observes more vignettes of nature communicating with her and another military scene of a prisoner being beaten. In her flight she falls, giving herself a bloody nose—symbolic of the onset of menstruation. Her first sign of civilization is a horsewoman—whom she mistakes for a man—who seems to scrutinize her before cantering off. Then she encounters a group of naked boys acting as swineherds.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (3)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (3)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (4)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (4)

She finally comes upon a house and enters. There are many signs that the place is inhabited: a lit fire, food cooking on the stove, etc.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (5)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (5)

By this time, the surreal tone is already suggestive of Lewis Carroll’s tales, but we begin to see specific examples: a glass of milk indicative of the “Drink Me! Eat Me!” scene. Lily even has to strain to reach the glass as though she were too small. Across the table is a piglet (The Duchess’ Baby) grunting seemingly in protest and the sound of the piano in the other room is actually a cat walking on the keys (The Cheshire Cat). The milk, however, is a clear symbol of motherhood.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (6)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (6)

Another important recurring character is a rather shabby unicorn. Clearly a symbol of the girl’s maidenhood, Lily’s interaction with this creature illustrates her progress in coming to terms with her adult sexuality and accepting the passing of her youth. Unicorns are post-medieval* symbols of lust, but as strictly fantastic creatures, we understand that we are witnessing the machinations of this girl’s subconscious.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (7)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (7)

Hearing noises upstairs, she explores the house further and finds an old woman (Thérèse Giehse, in a kind of Red Queen role) speaking to a rat (The Dormouse) in a strange mixture of Germanic and Latin sounding languages. Next to her is a radio symbolizing Lily’s connection to the outside, real world. In her first encounter with the woman, Lily has an altercation with her and believes she has died.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (8)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (8)

She hears singing outside and sees a young man tending the grounds. She goes outside to look for him and comes upon him suddenly.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (9)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (9)

Dissatisfied with the old woman’s communication, Lily tries to get a straight answer from this man (Joe Dallesandro). She finds that he only communicates telepathically and is also named Lily. She turns and sees the horsewoman and the naked children now joined by some girls all shepherding a hog and some sheep. The horsewoman is the man’s sister (Alexandra Stewart) and is named Lily as well. The coincidence of the names points to the fact that Brother Lily and Sister Lily are the girl’s alter egos, representing the Animus and the Shadow in Jungian psychology. The twin motif is also suggestive of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (10)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (10)

Throughout the film, the twins serve as models of Lily’s impending role: Sister Lily as caregiver and Brother Lily as seducer. Both represent the more impulsive aspects of their gender roles while the old woman represents the more rational. Brother and Sister Lily return to the old woman’s room and revive her; Sister then allows the old woman to suckle at her breast. After witnessing this, Lily sits provocatively in a chair (in a Balthus-like pose) while Brother comes by and sensuously caresses her bare leg. Alarmed by this development, she withdraws suddenly and is then locked in the room alone with the old woman. One at a time, each alarm clock (The White Rabbit’s Pocket Watch) goes off and in a rage of denial, Lily throws them each out the window. The clocks are a call back to reality but also symbolic of a woman’s “biological clock”. She is then humiliated by the old woman as her panties fall down inexplicably, yet another expression of sexual denial.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (11)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (11)

She escapes when she sees the unicorn again and tracks it down. The unicorn is the only character that speaks plainly to her and she wishes she could continue speaking with it indefinitely. After this, she experiences a shift in her relationship to the children: at first personally associating with them as a fellow child and then acknowledging her role as caregiver. She again observes Sister Lily modeling the caregiving role by feeding the children. She decides to accept her role and now when the old woman makes suckling sounds, Lily feeds her from her own breast. This strange scene is reminiscent of the final passage in The Grapes of Wrath with Rose of Sharon suckling the old man.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (12)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (12)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (13)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (13)

This rite of passage is commemorated in the film by a performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with Lily playing the piano accompaniment and two of the children playing the leads. The choice of subject matter is instructive; the Tristan and Isolde story came into full blossom in the troubadour era and is about a young couple who fall in love but don’t realize it. The drama is escalated when the couple drink a love potion they mistake for wine.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (14)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (14)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (15)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (15)

Lily then witnesses a violent scene as Brother Lily kills an eagle with a sword and then Brother and Sister begin fighting tooth and nail, perhaps representing the unresolved tension between the sexes in our society. Lily returns upstairs—the old woman is now gone—and assumes her role: sleeping in her bed and trying to work the radio. A snake appears, an obvious phallic symbol, and slithers into the bed. It appears that Louis Malle does not regard womanhood as a liberation, but an obligation to be meekly accepted. Lily’s expression is of passive resignation and not consistent with the notions of sexual freedom of that period.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (16)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (16)

In the final scene, Lily gets closure with the unicorn which suddenly appears. This time it says nothing and Lily dutifully bares her breasts as it makes suckling sounds. In fact, this is the freeze frame at the end of the film. The significance of this is that in satiating the unicorn, she is able to let go of her attachment to her childhood innocence and fantasy.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (17)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (17)

I would like to thank Pip for his contribution in analyzing this film. Without his help, it would have been a lot more work for me to put this all together.

The last installment of the Louis Malle films will be Pretty Baby starring Brooke Shields.

*I erred in my original assumption that this was a medieval symbol.  After some of Christian’s comments and some more follow up on my part, I realize the symbol belongs to the late 15th Century (but possibly earlier).  Please read the comments below for a clarification.  In an effort to get so much information out, there are bound to be errors like this and I will correct them as needed.  It is not my intent to deceive or misrepresent historical paradigms.  -Ron

A Provocative Perch

This story begins with a press photo I noticed on a sales site. I loved the impish expression of the girl while she sat on the head of the White Rabbit sculpture in Central Park, New York. Since the sculpture ties in to the whole Alice in Wonderland culture which is associated with a plethora of material about little girls, I decided it needed to be presented on this site. After a little digging, I realized this photo is historically significant as it was one of many taken during the unveiling of the statue in 1959.

Press photo (uncredited) (1959)

Press photo (uncredited) (1959)

I had no idea that this sculpture existed and even if I lived in New York, I would still probably not have known about it. Since beginning work on Pigtails and working with artists that deal with Alice lore extensively, I now feel it a duty to get to know some of this material (it would be impossible for any one person to keep track of it all). There are many sculptures in Central Park but this is one of the few depicting fictional characters. This piece features most prominently Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit along with a few other charming characters and details from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 story. The statue is located on East 74th Street on the north side of Central Park’s Conservatory Water. The publisher George T. Delacorte Jr. commissioned the work from José de Creeft, in honor of Delacorte’s late wife, Margarita, and for the enjoyment of the children. The sculpture tries to follow John Tenniel’s whimsical illustrations from the first edition of the book Alice in Wonderland. Some sources suggest that de Creeft’s daughter Donna may have served as the model for Alice. The project’s architects and designers were Hideo Sasaki and Fernando Texidor, who inserted some plaques with inscriptions from the book in the terrace around the sculpture. The design of the sculpture attracts many children who climb its many levels, resulting in the bronze’s glowing patina, polished by thousands of tiny hands over the years. The casting was done at Modern Art Foundry Astoria in Queens, New York.

Owen Kennedy - Central Park's Alice in Wonderland (2009)

Owen Kennedy – Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland (2009)

Pip informed me that had I been more attentive, I might have noticed that there were a number of iconic images featuring this Central Park sculpture. In 1988, it appeared in Slick Rick’s music video, Children’s Story. But by Pip’s reckoning, the most notable photo was probably the one of Jimi Hendrix and his band sitting on the sculpture with a bunch of children. It was used as the back cover of some pressings of the Electric Ladyland album. Jimi actually wanted it for the front cover, but the studio in England insisted on a more provocative photo of nude women—a rare instance where the artist wanted a tamer image than the studio! Editions produced for the American market just feature a closeup of Jimi’s head, reflecting the more prudish attitudes in the U.S.  The image was photographed by Linda Eastman, who later married musician Paul McCartney.

Linda Eastman - The Jimi Hendix Experience's Electric Ladyland (back cover) (1968)

Linda Eastman – The Jimi Hendix Experience’s Electric Ladyland (back cover) (1968)

Sculptor and Photographer Unknown - (Title Unknown)

Sculptor and Photographer Unknown – (Title Unknown)

And while we are on the subject of children playing on statues, I have a bonus for you. This photograph also appeared online, but does not have any identifying information. The seller believes the statue is somewhere in Europe, but could offer no more than that. Anyone knowing anything about this piece is encouraged to come forward with the information and perhaps some better photos.

Wikipedia: Jose de Creeft

Linda McCartney (Linda Eastman) (official website)

Wikipedia: Linda McCartney

Wikipedia: Hideo Sasaki

Central Park (official website)

Jimi Hendrix (official site)

Having the Time of Her Life: Hajime Sawatari

It may seem a superficial thing to say, but modeling is hard work and photographing models is as well, especially if they are children. On the other hand, many little girls do enjoy getting their hair done, dressing up, playing make believe and generally showing off. Hajime Sawatari’s Alice is an excellent case in point and it happens to be the best example of the tableau I can think of.

Sawatari (沢渡朔) was born in Japan in 1940 and, pursuing his interests, graduated with a degree in photography in 1963. By 1966 he was a freelance photographer working mostly in the fashion industry. Over time, he became more and more entranced by the female form and began documenting his romance with an Italian woman named Nadia. The results of this work garnered Sawatari some critical acclaim. In 1973, he produced Alice which despite its exceptional production quality was not recognized publicly as a masterpiece, most likely because of the nudes of the 6 or 7-year-old girl contained within. Ironically, Sawatari produced a sequel to this work in 1979 called Alice from the Sea using the same model and that did win awards. The little girl, Samantha Gates, would later do other modeling and acting work: most notably (with her brother Stefan) Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy album cover and the film The Water Babies.

It is hard to be sure, but it seems clear the artist was creating an homage to Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), not only because of the Alice motifs, but because he felt it important to show off this beautiful girl in her natural glory. There is also ample evidence that these photos were shot on various estates and other locations in England.  Whatever work difficulties there may have been, I think it fair to say that this little girl had the time of her life. This piece is a kind of swan song for Sawatari as he never did anything quite like it again. Over time he worked with nudes more and more, but they tended to be Japanese and older.

It was hard for me to choose only eight images and I have something to say about all of them. I expect to share some of the others in upcoming thematic posts. Every few pages of the book has an insert of Japanese text taken from the Alice stories to give context and mood to the images.

The artist played with scale by using miniatures as in this shot or over-sized props to create the opposite effect.


Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (1)

Sawatari plays around with twin imagery in a few shots using this Alice mannequin.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (2)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (2)

This image of embarking evokes the idea of a magical journey. The girl’s costume and the beautiful train remind me a lot of scenes involving The Hogwarts Express.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (3)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (3)

This is the only image in the book that is a two-page spread. Pip did a nice job cleaning it up so you could appreciate its full impact.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (4)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (4)

This is a wonderful juxtaposition of scale, perfectly suited for this fantasy.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (5)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (5)

Here, she is frolicking with Tweedledee and Tweedledum. There is another image like it in a wooded setting involving the King and Queen of Hearts.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (6)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (6)

This is one of several scenes involving the Tea Party and this is a good one showing the entire table setting and cast of characters.

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (7)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (7)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (8)

Hajime Sawatari – Alice (1973) (8)

[160227] Sawatari’s journal entries from this shoot have been transcribed and translated and will be used for a future post focusing on Gates.  -Ron

Wikipedia: Hajime Sawatari