Currently on at the British Library in the Folio Society Gallery, the Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics exhibition is a compact but wonderful exhibition about children’s book illustration. It covers ten children’s classics from the 20th century and displays various illustrated publications of each of the ten titles. It includes The Hobbit, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden and Paddington Bear. There’s a selection of original artwork, reproductions, books and as well as several video interviews with some of the illustrators involved.
Some of my personal highlights were the original woodblock and a print of Andrew Davidson’s cover for ‘The Iron Man’ by Ted Hughes, a few Paddington Bears side by side and a beautiful piece by David Roberts from a fairly recent edition of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame (below). He is one of the illustrators talking on film in the exhibition, in which he explains more about his approach to illustrating such a well-known classic, and Gustav’s Klimt’s influence on the stunning patterned wallpapers in the artwork for the book.
I always find it fascinating to see how and what each illustrator chooses to interpret or highlight in a text, and this exhibition allows the audience to compare a range of approaches to very familiar tales. There are the inevitable recurring images across editions, though each approach feels unique and exciting. Highly recommended if you get the chance!
The Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics exhibition runs until January 26th at the British Library, and entry is free.