Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of British illustrator and artist Sir John Tenniel, best known for his work on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland series.
Tenniel was born on February 28, 1820, in London, and was a mostly self-taught artist. He was successful from a young age, and at just 16, Tenniel submitted an oil painting for an exhibition at the Society of British Artists. But Tenniel became an illustrator in 1850 when he began working as a political cartoonist with the weekly magazine Punch.
Tenniel had a distinctive style, partly due to his near-photographic memory, and it was this approach that most likely caught the attention Charles Dodgson, a writer and professor with the pen name Lewis Carroll. Tenniel and Carroll met in 1864 and Tenniel agreed to illustrate Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, released the following year.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the start of a successful, though strained, creative partnership, which continued with Through the Looking Glass in 1871.
After working with Carroll, Tenniel chose not to work as an illustrator again, though he returned to Punch to continue as a political cartoonist.
In 1893, Tenniel was awarded a knighthood for his contribution to Punch and Alice in Wonderland. He died on February 25, 1914, aged 93.
The Google Doodle celebrating Sir John Tenniel sees Alice looking up at the Cheshire Cat in a tree, with Alice’s bent arm making up the L in Google. The doodle is a photograph of drawing in Tenniel’s style, with a pencil and fountain pen resting to the right of the piece.
The Google Doodle was drawn by Matthew Cruickshank from London.
In a Q&A with Google, Cruickshank said that he first learned of Tenniel, “as a child, reading Alice In Wonderland. I thought the combination of poetic writing and the hauntingly beautiful and bizarre illustrations were a perfect combination.”
And speaking of the Doodle, Cruickshank said: “I wanted to try something hand-drawn since Tenniel himself made astounding drawings that were then given to the engraver, and I wanted to at least pay homage to that initial process.
“The Cheshire Cat and Alice’s conversation were the inspiration. You really can ‘go’ anywhere you want on the homepage, depending on what you’re searching for! I made a very rough basic sketch, a draft, and then the final image. Enjoy and trust the process without thinking of the perfect image straight away.”
Cruickshank added: “I hope people are inspired to be as imaginative as Tenniel was with his work. Go fall down a rabbit hole!”