Eat me… Drink me… Alice did it and found herself involved in the most weird and wonderful adventures in the land at the bottom of the rabbit hole. Hague artist Pat Andrea has long been fascinated by this extraordinary story and the cast of eccentrics that inhabit Wonderland. The apparently completely normal Alice has for years played an inconspicuous role in his paintings. For a special new Dutch edition of the classic children’s book and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass (in Dutch: Alice in Wonderland and Alice in Spiegelland), Andrea has now produced life-size illustrations, on exhibition this summer at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag.
The March Hare, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts all feature in Pat Andrea’s marvellous, fantastical paintings. But they are not alone. Andrea has travelled on with Alice to the land in Lewis Carroll’s second book Through the Looking Glass, where she meets perhaps less familiar, but equally extraordinary, characters like Humpty-Dumpty, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee.
In the paintings on show at the Gemeentemuseum, Pat Andrea has interpreted the stories in an entirely personal and completely original way which owes nothing either to the books’ celebrated original illustrations or to the well-known cartoon film. There, Alice is portrayed as a nicely brought-up, polite, but slightly awkward young girl. In Pat Andrea’s illustrations, she is a self-assured young woman who looks different in every painting. Blonde or red-haired, big or small, she is never the same twice. Always a different woman, the only constant factor is the trainers she wears.
The paintings are quite different from traditional book illustrations. Andrea was asked to illustrate a special edition of Carroll’s two books but, instead of producing small drawings, he painted large-scale works measuring 150 x 180 cm. For each chapter, he produced two illustrations, featuring not only the most famous scenes but also lesser-known episodes from Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and the land behind the looking glass. The media Andrea has used are as varied as the fictional narrative and his own images. He uses both paint and pencil, sometimes (as in the case of the Queen of Heart’s dress) working in an extremely detailed way and sometimes depicting a character with no more than a few brisk lines.
The volume for which Pat Andrea has produced his illustrations is a work of art in its own right. A luxury edition containing Andrea’s illustrations and the complete text of both Lewis Carroll’s books is available in the museum shop, as is an exhibition catalogue containing all the illustrations together with the particular parts of the text that inspired the individual paintings. Other editions of the Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are, of course, also widely available.