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Through The Looking Glass – Sussex academic curates first ever virtual exhibition of Dalziel Brothers engravings

A new online exhibition charting the extraordinary success of the Victorian period’s foremost wood engravers has gone live, following extensive archival work by an academic from the University of Sussex.

The Brothers Dalziel worked directly with many famous artists including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and John Tenniel to realise their designs as wood engravings for mass publication; both the designer and engraver were equally vital in producing the look and style of the print.

The exhibition is is available to view at

Called 'Alice to Alice: Dalziel 1865-1871’ and curated by Dr Bethan Stevens, it features around 200 highlights out of the 12,885 illustrations produced by the Brothers Dalziel between 1865 and 1871.

Dr Stevens said: “The Brothers Dalziel and other engravers were often dismissed as mere mechanical artists, but their work has been crucial in shaping visual culture from the Victorian period until today.

“The aim of the new website is to celebrate and share this wonderful material in an innovative way, and encourage artists, educators, researchers and other interested individuals to engage with it.”

 “I hope that our research addresses the need for more knowledge and creative thinking around the role of wood engravers and of the Dalziel Family.”

The exhibition is structured around the Dalziels’ beautiful realisations of the illustrations designed by John Tenniel for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871), 150 years after the original book was first published.

Each section of the exhibition includes wood engravings from the Alice books, accompanied by other images created to illustrate work by Dickens, Christina Rossetti, Anthony Trollope and Hans Christian Andersen.

More unusual items available to view include Victorian design and engineering illustrations, ranging from door knobs to the electric telegram and ballcock diagrams; medical and veterinary art; and wood-engraved interpretations of radical photography by Julia Margaret Cameron.

The images are from The Dalziel Archive, an unparalleled collection of around 54,000 engravers’ proofs held in the Prints and Drawings department of the British Museum, covering the period 1839 to 1893 and now catalogued in its entirety by Dr Stevens.

The Dalziel project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research council (AHRC) and is a partnership between the University of Sussex and the British Museum. The photographs produced for the project were taken by photographers at Sylph Editions.

By: Patrick Reed
Last updated: Wednesday, 21 September 2016