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Central Park
central park new york
Image by peterjr1961
Alice in Wonderland Monument
"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 March Hare, 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.

central park new york
Image by Antonio Campoy Ederra
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