A Thousand Words: Whimsy

Welcome to “A Thousand Words,” a column at The English and Drama Review dedicated to featuring themed artworks at the end of each month to explore the relationships between literature and art. We encourage the display of all art forms—painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, ceramics, design, short film, needlework, and so forth—at this virtual exhibit of sorts. Art recommendations are made by members of our editing team and curated by our Co-Editor-in-Chief, Cristina Coppa.

The creation of art relies on the inspiration of the artist and the inspiration of the artist oftentimes relies on their surroundings. What greater inspiration is there than fanciful play and humor during the last month of summer? As a farewell to the estival season, this month’s installment is all about whimsical art presenting some fun in the sun inspired by literary classics.

— Cristina

Don Quixote

Artist: Pablo Picasso

Picasso, Pablo. Don Quixote. 1955. PabloPicasso.org, pablopicasso.org/don-quixote.jsp.

Picasso’s sketch of Miguel de Cervantes’s buoyant The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote de la Mancha and companion Sancho Panza is stylistically unlike Picasso’s prior Blue, Rose, and Cubist periods. However, the simple bold lines reproduce the same sense of ridiculousness of the errant duo’s expedition as well as the fatigue brought by a scorching sun. Replicating the novel’s energetic nature, the static image is full of movement thanks to the Picasso’s free and effortless strokes: the heat agitates Rocinante the horse and Dapple the donkey, blazing sunrays beat down the landscape, and iconic windmills spin in the background.

Mad Tea Party

From: Carroll, Lewis. Alice in Wonderland. 1865. Limited ed., Random House, 1969.

Artist: Salvador Dalí

Dalí, Salvador. Mad Tea Party. 1969. Dallas Museum of Art, collections.dma.org/artwork/5332987.

Dalí’s avant-garde surrealist art is a perfect match for Lewis Carroll’s equally outlandish fantasy world in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. An editor at Random House thought so too and commissioned Dalí to illustrate a limited edition of the classic in 1969. The artwork featured above, Mad Tea Party, is one of a suite containing 12 heliogravures—one for each chapter of the book. Dalí’s illustrations are vibrant and even entice you to jump into the rabbit hole to sneak a peek of Wonderland’s whimsy. And for fans of the artist’s works, his famous melting clock from The Persistence of Memory is his choice centerpiece for the Mad Hatter’s tea party!

“It isn’t manners for us to begin, you know,” said the Rose

From: Illustrations to Through the Looking-Glass

Artist: Peter Blake

Blake, Peter. “It isn’t manners for us to begin, you know,” said the Rose. 1970, Tate Gallery, London.

So…why settle for just one book of fanciful charm when you know there is a sequel?

Peter Blake’s illustration depicts a conversation between Alice and a rose in Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. A girl in a wondrous world with wordsmith roses makes a stunning scenery for a print. The work had been originally commissioned to accompany the text of a new edition of Carroll’s classic novel, yet the project never came to fruition. Fortunately, Blake decided to release his eight watercolor illustrations as limited-edition screenprints.

Cain and Abel

Artist: Ed Blackburn

Blackburn, Ed. Cain and Abel. 1989, UNT Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc274995/.

Ed Blackburn found inspiration in the world’s most read book (or, to be precise, collection of books): the Bible. Turning to The Book of Genesis, Blackburn’s Cain and Abel portrays the moment when a jealous Cain in the foreground, with a club in hand, decides to kill his younger brother Abel, who dwells in the background herding sheep. While this featured artwork might not show the “fun in the sun” I promised at the beginning of this post, it makes up for it with color and landscape. This oil painting of many bright colors in flat fields with black outlines is Blackburn’s vision of sin slowly delineating and invading the remnants of the idyllic life once found in the Garden of Eden.