Posted by: millyc13 | December 15, 2011

Kiki Smith’s Take on Lewis Carroll

Illustration of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by John Tenniel

John Tenniel’s famous illustrations of Alice have set the standard for how we view this famous girl, but many have developed their own interpretations. Kiki Smith, contemporary printmaker and a previous visiting artist at Mount Holyoke, has created a number of images inspired by the work of Lewis Carroll. Smith is especially known for her pieces that deal with the feminine, and “in her recent work Smith has often turned to fairy tales in search of dramatic female personae and alter egos. The poignant vulnerability of childhood is an underlying theme in many of her images.” (MoMA)

Come Away From Her after Lewis Carroll (2004) by Kiki Smith

Pool of Tears 2 after Lewis Carroll (2000) by Kiki Smith

These two images are featured in a current exhibition at the Tate, from now until the end of January, titled “Alice in Wonderland”:

More images by Kiki Smith can be found here:


  1. I really like these sketch-drawings by Kiki Smith. I think they retain some of the childlike, doodling aspects of girlhood and remind me of something a 12 year old would draw–maybe Alice herself. It looks so wood-sy and organic. I also like how Smith portrays the background of these drawings: there is not much there, dreamlike, as though they exist solely in the imagination. Of course, Wonderland does just exist in Alice’s dream and ultimately Carroll’s imagination. So I think they accurately portray the girlish, dreamlike quality of Alice in Wonderland.

    In Pool of Tears 2, i like how intricately the animals are colored-in, while Alice remains almost colorless, besides her hair. They seem to emphasize how young and innocent Alice is. They have almost a grainy quality (which is probably just because of the way they were uploaded), like they are reels from a film. Compared with Tenniel’s drawings, they seem more girlish and accurate to the text, more dream-like.

  2. Kiki Smith’s interpretations are wonderful. In the first picture posted, it highlights the notion that sometimes how she speaks pushes listeners away. It highlights the idea that although she is a child, she is still responsible for her actions/ words and also points out the delicate, ‘flighty’ nature of the company she keeps- ready to depart on a moments notice. In this picture it is also worth noting that she is illustrated as a unique individual, while all the birds/ creatures fluttering off are rather indistinguishable. The fact that Alice sits on a solid patch of ground while her company scatters off into the air/ wind/ abyss also points towards her attempts to ‘stay grounded’ and use logic in this unpredictable and illogical realm.

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