"Curiouser and curiouser!" cried Alice.
This impressive sculptural group, on the north side of Central Park's Conservatory Water, is the work of the Spanish-born, French-trained sculptor Jose de Creeft (1900-1982). Publisher and philanthropist George Delacorte (1893-1991) commissioned the sculpture as a tribute to his late wife Margarita, and as a gift to the children of New York City. Dedicated by Robert Moses on May 7, 1959, the bronze statuary depicts characters from Lewis Carroll's whimsical Alice in Wonderland, published in 1862.
Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), an English mathematician and writer. Dodgson was a lecturer of mathematics at Oxford University (1855-1881) and published various mathematical treatises, among them Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879). He is best known, however, for the classics of children's literature, Alice in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1872).
The two books, which have as their central character a young girl named Alice, were lovingly illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. They are based on stories which Dodgson originally invented to entertain Alice Liddell, the second daughter of Henry George Liddell, Dean of the Christ Church in Oxford. Dodgson's imaginary world is populated by strange and wonderful creatures often engaged in fantastic escapades, which at times provide thinly disguised commentary on English society. Dodgson, writing as Carroll, also authored Phantasmagoria (1869), Hunting of the Snark (1876), Rhyme? and Reason? (1883) and Sylvie and Bruno (1889).
Cast by Modern Art Foundry of Long Island City, Queens, the statues represent many of Dodgson's best known creations, including the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the Cheshire Cat. The central figure of Alice was based on the artist's daughter Donna, while many of the features and costumes are inspired by the earlier Tenniel illustrations. De Creeft worked in many media, and created numerous stone carvings. The Alice in Wonderland project's architect and designer were Hideo Sasaki and Fernando Texidor, who inserted plaques with inscriptions from the book in the terrace around the sculpture.
The area around the model boat pond-the scene of the fictional Stuart Little's exploits aboard a fragile craft-encompasses a cluster of monuments with themes from children's literature. Also in the park are the Sophie Irene Loeb Fountain (1936), near East 76th Street, with figures from Alice in Wonderland by Frederick G. R. Roth; on the west side of Conservatory Water the statue of Hans Christian Anderson and the Ugly Duckling (1956) by Georg John Lober; and on the east side of Rumsey Playfield the Mother Goose (1938), also by Roth. Yet it is perhaps De Creeft's Alice in Wonderland sculpture, that makes tangible the stories which sprang from the mind of Lewis Carroll, which has most captivated generations of young New Yorkers.
Alice in Wonderland Details
- Location: 76th Street and 5th Avenue, near Conservatory Lake
- Sculptor: José de Creeft
- Architect: F. Texidor; designer--Hideo Sasaki
- Description: Group (heroic scale)
- Materials: Bronze, Chelmsford granite
- Dimensions: Group H: 9'7" D: 14'6"; Plinth H: 1' Diameter: 34'; Esplanade Diameter: 67'; Seven bronze tablets each H: 1'9" W: 4'
- Cast: 1959
- Dedicated: May 7, 1959
- Foundry: Modern Art Foundry
- Donor: George and Margarita Delacorte
- Inscription: Seven bronze tablets:
1) TWINKLE, TWINKLE LITTLE BAT! / HOW I WONDER WHAT YOU'RE AT! / UP ABOVE THE WORLD YOU FLY, / LIKE A TEA-TRAY IN THE SKY. /
2) THEY TOLD ME YOU HAD BEEN TO HER, / AND MENTIONED ME TO HIM: / SHE GAVE ME A GOOD CHARACTER, / BUT SAID I COULD NOT SWIM. /
3) BEAUTIFUL SOUP, SO RICH AND GREEN / WAITING IN A HOT TUREEN! / WHO FOR SUCH DAINTIES WOULD NOT STOOP? / SOUP OF THE EVENING, BEAUTIFUL SOUP! /
4) TWEEDLEDUM AND TWEEDLEDEE / AGREED TO HAVE A BATTLE; / FOR TWEEDLEDUM SAID TWEEDLEDEE / HAD SPOILED HIS NICE NEW RATTLE. /
5) TWAS BRILLIG, AND THE SLITHY TOVES / DID GYRE AND GIMBLE IN THE COABE; / ALL MIMSY WERE THE BOROGROVES, / AND THE MOME RATHS OUTGRABE. /
6) SPEAK ROUGHLY TO YOUR LITTLE BOY, / AND BEAT HIM WHEN HE SNEEZES; / HE ONLY DOES IT TO ANNOY, / BECAUSE HE KNOWS IT TEASES./
7) ALICE IN WONDERLAND / IN MEMORY OF MY WIFE / MARGARITA DELACORTE / WHO LOVED ALL CHILDREN / GTD / MAGARITA DELACORTE MEMORIAL /
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