Ralph Steadman, a British caricaturist and cartoonist, is best known for his work with “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Steadman brought Thompson‘s articles and stories to life with frenzied, inksplattered illustrations of the reporter’s misadventures (eg, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas).

Steadman is also renowned for his political and social caricatures and cartoons. During the 1960′s, he worked freelance for numerous publications including Punch, Private Eye, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times and Rolling Stone magazine. He was voted Illustrator of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1979. In addition, Steadman also illustrated a number of classic stories including George Orwell‘s Animal Farm, Ray Bradbury‘s Farenheit 451, Robert Louis Stevenson‘s Treasure Island, and of course, Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland.

Alice illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Alice illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Ralph Steadman‘s Alice In Wonderland was first published in 1967 & contains 47 pen & ink illustrations. Steadman‘s drawings, a startling departure from the traditional illustrations, remain faithful to the book’s satirical tone while revealing the artist’s own passion for irony. Steadman‘s fresh illustrative approach breathes new life into the classic story, creating an original, modern vision through the artist’s dynamic and audacious images.

Steadman explains, “It is difficult to explain in words what the pictures are trying to say, and therefore my explanations are not precisely what I had in mind because they add shades of meaning which are not there. The reader can only interpret them in his own way, bringing his own observations to bear on the image he is looking at, so that he may agree or disagree with what I have tried to convey. When I set out to draw an idea, part of that idea is not yet formed and only takes shape and reveals itself as the drawing progresses. Consequently, the drawing acquires a life of its own and virtually takes over the direction it will follow — or so it seems.”

The King & Queen of Hearts by Ralph Steadman

The King & Queen of Hearts by Ralph Steadman

Steadman‘s King & Queen of Hearts (above) form the center of a larger courtroom scene (part of which is shown below). Steadman describes this as “The Monarch having evolved or developed into a shapeless mass of hangers-on, the State, H.M. Forces, the Church, the establishment walking on one pair of very well-worn legs. The King and Queen born into it and enveloped in it and lost in it, obliged to go through the motions automatically but surprising even themselves by their own outbursts.”

Courtroom scene illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Courtroom scene illustrated by Ralph Steadman

The White Rabbit by Ralph Steadman

The White Rabbit by Ralph Steadman

Worried by time, hurrying and scurrying. Sane within a routine, slightly insane but more engaging when the routine is upset. Today’s commuter,” says Steadman about The White Rabbit.

A Mad Tea Party by Ralph Steadman

A Mad Tea Party by Ralph Steadman

He describes the Mad Hatter as, “the unpleasant sides of human nature. The unreasoned argument screams at you. The bully, the glib quiz game compère who rattles off endless reels of unanswerable riddles and asks you to come back next week and make a bloody fool of yourself again,” and says the March Hareis always standing close by. The “egger-on” urging the banality to plumb even greater depths. He always seems to be around to push someone into a fight.” As for the Dormouse, Steadman says he’s, “Harmless and nice. The man anyone in the office can take a rise out of. If you tread on his face he will smile right back at you.”

Personally, I think the Mad Hatter & March Hare bear a strange resemblance to Hunter S. Thompson and his crazy lawyer sidekick, Dr. Gonzo (Oscar Zeta Acosta)… for obvious reasons :)

Alice In Wonderland cover design by Ralph Steadman

Alice In Wonderland cover design by Ralph Steadman

The Card Guards as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

The Card Guards as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Steadman took inspiration for his Card Guards from British workmen, “Bickering about who splashed who and standing in the stuff all the time anyway.”

The Pool of Tears by Ralph Steadman

The Pool of Tears by Ralph Steadman

Steadman explains that the animals in his illustration of The Pool Of Tearsremind me of people I know, rather as Lewis Carroll apparently created them around friends and associates. The reader can place his own interpretation on them. It was never my intention to set everything in concrete.”

The Cheshire Cat by Ralph Steadman

The Cheshire Cat by Ralph Steadman

Steadman designed his Cheshire Cat to be “an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out.” On a synchronistic note, Ralph Steadman was born in Wallasey, Cheshire.

Serpent! scene as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Serpent! scene as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Alice & the pig baby as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Alice & the pig baby as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Advice From A Caterpillar as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Advice From A Caterpillar as illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Steadman defines the Caterpillar as a “young intellectual. Smoking hash, pedantic, who thinks he has something to say and sheds his opinions as easily as his skins.”

Wool and Water illustrated by Ralph Steadman

Wool and Water illustrated by Ralph Steadman

In addition to illustrating Alice In Wonderland, Ralph Steadman went on to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass (see Wool & Water above), as well as The Hunting of the Snark.

Steadman is well known among the British public for his illustrations for the catalogues of the off-licence chain Oddbins. He also designed the labels for Flying Dog beer and Cardinal “Spiced” Zin’ wine, which was banned in Ohio for Steadman‘s “disturbing” interpretation of a Catholic cardinal on its label.

Steadman also illustrates Will Self‘s column in The Independent newspaper. Johnny Depp‘s anthology of songs, Rogue’s Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys (2006) contains two contributions from Steadman; he sings lead on “Little Boy Billee“, and sings backing vocals on Eliza Carthy‘s song “Rolling Sea“.

Ralph Steadman currently resides in Kent, England with his wife Anna Steadman.

Self Portrait by Ralph Steadman

Self Portrait by Ralph Steadman

For more artwork by Ralph Steadman visit
ralphsteadman.com

For more Alice In Wonderland inspired artwork
don’t miss Dali In Wonderland,
The Alice Art of Kenneth Rougeau,
and be sure to visit our Alice In Wonderland Art Gallery

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This entry was posted on Saturday, September 12th, 2009 at 1:40 am and is filed under Alice In Wonderland, Art, Literature, Through The Looking Glass. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far

S Slocombe
 1 

I didn’t know this existed until I stumbled upon this today. Somehow it all makes sense when Mr Steadman turns his hand to it. A sumputous feast for my mind’s eye. Thank you, Mr Steadman.

Mrs Slocombe & her pussies

September 23rd, 2011 at 11:58 am
David M Garens
 2 

Ralph Steadman is a genius. Once you see a Steadman cartoon, you know the artist.
He inhabits every project he touches with his
keen wit and insane viewpoint toward illustration.

January 6th, 2014 at 5:03 pm

2 Trackbacks/Pings

  1. Fear and loathing in Wonderland « Sumidouro    Apr 15 2010 / 5am:

    [...] desenhos peguei aqui, onde tem [...]

  2. makowski und pepe : na ile Gonzo jest ojcem (i matką) Ptaka i dlaczego?    Jul 11 2010 / 7am:

    [...] znany (ralph ste­ad­man oraz tro­chę hun­ter s. thomp­son); a na przy­kład choćby – Alice In Won­der­land, Gonzo Style .….….….….….….…… oraz Dudi-Ptak (1970–1976, wg autora); Andrzeja [...]

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