We had a list of things we wanted to do while in London the other week and top of mine was a visit to the Quentin Blake exhibition at the brand new House of Illustration near King’s Cross. Our niece Beth happened to be in the city at the same time and when I mentioned the exhibition she said she’d like to see it too.
It is a small but perfectly formed show, concentrating strongly on a number of books – chief amongst which are Roald Dahl’s The Twits and Danny the Champion of the World, Blake’s Clown, David Walliam’s The Boy in the Dress, and the beautiful and haunting Sad, by Michael Rosen. Blake’s wonderful inky scratches cascade across the walls in the first room, making you feel as if you’ve fallen inside his head! The second room has lots of framed illustrations on the walls, plus cases displaying thumbnail layouts, rough sketches and early character studies, dotted with actual pens, pencils and paints from the artist’s studio. Thrilling! I especially liked the image made for comparing the heights of Sophie, the BFG, and the other giants.
There are insights from Blake about how he approaches each book, whether his own or someone else’s. It was particularly interesting to get an inkling of how he worked with the notoriously difficult Dahl (sounds like a great working relationship), and how he responded to Rosen’s text for Sad, a book written in response to the death of the author’s son. The third room is dedicated to Sad, alone.
It was fun to walk around the exhibition with Beth as she knew all the Dahl books well and was responding to them both as an art history grad, and as favorite childhood reading – see how her eyes are shining at having her photo taken with Matilda! Michael and myself are big fans of Blake’s and it’s fantastic to see the work in the raw. We drank it all up, watched the accompanying short films of Blake speaking about his work, then headed to the ridiculously cool Caravan bar to recover with a late afternoon tipple!
Afterwards, on the way back to the train, we had fun with some the many familiar illustrations decorating the walkway.
Walking with Willy the Champ! (Anthony Browne)
Too noisy, ‘Zagazoo’!
The exhibition is on until November 2nd 2014
Link to 2007 article where Quentin Blake talks about illustrating Sad
(Photos mix of ours and Beth O’Rafferty’s)