The White Rabbit and Alice aren’t the only people illustrator John Tenniel put a face to.
Anyone who has read Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking Glass knows Tenniel’s work. Less well-remembered today are his political cartoons, mostly created during his lengthy tenure as the chief political cartoonist for a well-known British weekly, Punch.
Though Punch was published across the pond, Tenniel, born on this day in 1820, on occasion drew American politicians as well as Queen Victoria and "The Spectre of Neglect." And given that his time at the magazine (1850-1901) encompassed the Civil War, he certainly had some things to draw.
Tenniel produced over 50 cartoons satirizing and examining the Civil War between December 1860 and May 1865. They illustrate “British perceptions of the war, slavery and the American political and social scene,” according to a text from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, which owns a large collection of the illustrations. “They also offer examples of period dress and popular illustration, showcasing Tenniel’s fine draughtmanship and keen satiric eye.”
These images offer an opportunity to see the extremely American conflict from an international perspective, writes Russell Smith for The Globe and Mail. Among other things, he writes, to the mighty seat of the British Empire the war was seen as “an embarrassing conflict among hicks.” The British also supported the South, according to the Minnesota College of Art and Design’s library blog. Allan Kohl, an MCAD librarian, was responsible for bringing a collection of the cartoons together after studying them, and among the other things this study revealed was an overwhelming dislike of Abraham Lincoln. Take a look at the gallery below and see how Lincoln’s portrayal changed as the war went on:
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