Alice's adventures in Wonderland

Year: 2002

Author: Lewis Carroll (1832 - 1898)

Illustrator: John Tenniel

Artist: Didier Mutel (*1971)

Didier Mutel, Alice's adventures in Wonderland (2002): edges of coloured pages

The tale Alice’s adventures in Wonderland written by Lewis Carroll has already appeared in many different ways. The artist Didier Mutel has also made his own version of this story. The result: a colourful and extraordinary edition.

The artist's career

In 1988 Didier Mutel (1971) was taken on by the Atelier Georges Leblanc as a trainee and in 1995 Maître d’art, Pierre Lallier decided to officially take him under his wing as his pupil. Upon becoming fully fledged Mutel spent two years at the Académie de France à Rome, Villa Médicis (1997-1999). Since 2003 he has been a lecturer at the École des Beaux-Arts in Besançon. In November 2013 he gained the prestigious title Maître d'art. Between 1989 and 2000 Mutel published nine artists’ books, the most successful one being the project surrounding the edition known as The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A French version, Le cas étrange du Dr Jekyll et de M. Hyde, was simultaneously produced. In 2016 he won the prestigious 'Prix Liliane Bettencourt pour l'intelligence de la main'.

A colourful edition of a classic

In 2002 an edition of Lewis Carroll came out: Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. The book has differently coloured pages and was scanned from the original publication with illustrations by John Tenniel. Both the text and the illustrations were enlarged (blown up to 36x26 cm) and transferred to copperplates before being printed off in blue.

The paper was processed beforehand, each page having been separately printed by means of monotyping. To that end, Mutel had prepared a whole set of different copperplates, the ‘motion’ of the pigments on the various plates being clearly visible. There are blue and green pages, but also pink, yellow, orange, brown and purple ones.

Mutel's touch of horror

It was Mutel himself who created the book’s 42 illustrations. They, too, were printed as copper plate engravings but then in shades to match the paper. Each one was shrouded behind a thin page of Japanese paper so that Mutel’s own illustrations initially remained invisible but those of Tenniel could be seen. Opposite the tiny Tenniel pictures Mutel placed etchings that covered the entire page. These are no sweet children’s book illustrations. Mutel’s edition of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland belongs to the modern ‘scary tale’ genre of nightmarish fairy tales in which children’s stories are presented as horror stories. In Mutel’s portrayal of Alice she is a scary full-breasted creature with spiky hair and Dracula teeth. The book itself, both the cover and the pages, is like a silky-soft skin.

The whole production process sometimes made it necessary for certain pages to pass through the printing press eight times. In total, 50 copies were produced. The sequel, Through the looking-glass, also underwent the same complex series of processes.

Read more: Through the looking-glass.

Bibliographical description

Description: Alice's adventures in wonderland / by Lewis Carroll ; [with 42 ill. after John Tenniel combined with original copper engravings by Didier Mutel]. - Paris : Didier Mutel, 2002. – 192 p., [42] bl. pl. : ill. ; 38 cm.

Printer: Didier Mutel (Paris)

Edition: 50 copies

This copy: Number 24/40 of 50 on Arches and Sekishu-Shi

Note: Uncut; with cassette; signed by the artist

Shelfmark: KW KOOPM E 97


  • Marie Akar, ‘Didier Mutel. Graveur et artiste du livre’, in: Art & métiers du livre, 285 (juillet-août 2011), p. 40-51.
  • Paul van Capelleveen, 'Didier Mutel', in: Artists & others. The imaginative French book in the 21st century. Koopman Collection, National Library of the Netherlands. Nijmegen, Vantilt Publishers, 2016, p. 70-77.
  • Paul van Capelleveen and Ruth R. Rogers, 'Didier Mutel, Atelier Didier Mutel', in: Materialia Lumina. Contemporary Artists’ Books from the CODEX International Book Fair. Berkeley, CA: The CODEX Foundation; Stanford: Stanford Libraries, Stanford University, 2022, p. 129-140
  • Alan Chatham de Bolivar, ‘Le cas étrange du Dr. Jekyll et de Mr. Hyde’, in: Art & métiers du livre, 189 (janvier-février 1995), p. 16-17.
  • Johanna Drucker, ‘The art of the written image’, in: Johanna Drucker, Figuring the word. essays on books, writing, and visual poetics. New York City, Granary Books, 1998, p. 57-75.
  • Didier Mutel, ‘A mythical animal encountered in unknown lands’, in: The artist book in a global world. A workshop in Poestenkill, New York, August 2002. (Wulf D. von Lucius, Gunnar A. Kaldewey, Eds.). Stuttgart, Lucius & Lucius, 2003, p. 19-32.
  • Timothy Young, ‘If it is beautiful, it is useful: a few words for Didier Mutel and his unheeded manifesto’, in: Didier Mutel, Acide brut manifesto. Berkeley, CA., Codex Foundation, 2011, p. 3-7.
  • Timothy Young, ‘Meet Captain Acid’, [published 11 October 2014, website: ‘The Design Observer Group’].