Exhibition | Quentin Blake: Anthology of Readers | Contemporary Art at Shapero Rare Books | London | Art Week

Quentin Blake: Anthology of Readers

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Friday, 29 November 2019 to Saturday, 21 December 2019
Opening: 
Thursday, 28 November 2019 -
6:00pm to 8:30pm

Shapero Rare Books is delighted to present an exhibition of new works by Sir Quentin Blake. Opening on the 29 November 2019, Anthology of Readers is comprised of sixty pen, ink & watercolour drawings, all of which affectionately caricature people who love books.

Famous for his work with Roald Dahl — he provided the illustrations for The incredible Mr Fox, Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and Chocolate Factory, amongst others — Anthology follows a highly-acclaimed presentation of Blake’s work at Hastings Contemporary in the summer.

The artworks, in various formats, are executed in the artist’s trademark style, which Daily Telegraph writer Melanie McDonagh described as ‘anarchic, moral, infinitely subversive, sometimes vicious, socially acute [and] sparse.

Prints of four of the original artworks, each in a limited edition of 25, will also be available, and to mark the exhibition, Shapero has produced a fully-illustrated book featuring an introduction by the historian Simon Sharma. Limited to 100 copies, it will also include a print signed by the artist himself.

Of his work, Blake says: ‘I do a freewheeling sort of drawing that looks as though it is done on the spur of the moment. However even a single drawing needs a certain amount of preparation and planning. Most of the time I need to do a rough in which I find out how people stand, what sort of expressions they have and how they fit on the page. For a sequence of drawings more planning is needed, and one needs to think of a number of questions at the same time (which is part of the interest of the job).

Then the artist employs a lightbox. ‘I put the rough drawing I am going to work from [on the light box]… Ready to hand is a bottle of waterproof black ink and a lot of scruffy-looking dip pens… What happens next is not tracing; in fact it’s important that I can’t see the rough drawing underneath too clearly, because when I draw I try to draw as if for the first time; but I can do it with increased concentration, because the drawing underneath lets me know all the elements that have to appear and exactly where they have to be placed.

Normally I begin with the most difficult piece of the drawing – some particular facial expression, some particular gesture or stance - so that if I get that wrong, I don’t have to repeat the whole of the drawing. Consequently, it’s not impossible for me to find myself at the end of a session of work surrounded by expensive sheets of watercolour paper with a small face bearing not quite the right expression in the middle of each.

There are various other stages at which I may have to stop and start again - the drawing may be finished but uncoloured or even completely finished before I decide that it lacks some flavour hinted at in the rough, or that there’s some quality of line or colour that doesn’t seem quite consistent with the rest of the book. And sometimes I may do two or three finished versions in the search for some phantom felicity. This comes under the heading of Artist’s Neurosis, and later I am not always sure why I made the choice I did or if it was the right one.

Says Bernard Shapero: ‘We are honoured to be showing these shrewdly observed works by Quentin Blake, indisputably Britain’s greatest living illustrator. His effortless ability to caricature social groups with wit and vivacity is justly celebrated, and that is writ large over these wonderfully observed drawings and watercolours of book lovers.

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Born in 1932, Blake is one of the UK’s most beloved illustrators. In 1999, he was named the first Children’s Laureate and in 2013 he received a knighthood for ‘services to illustration’. The artist has won numerous awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration and the Whitbread Award. He is known for his collaboration with writers such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, John Yeoman and, most famously, Roald Dahl. He has also illustrated classic books, including A Christmas Carol and Candide and created much-loved characters of his own, including Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage.

Since the 1990s Quentin Blake has had an additional career as exhibition curator, curating shows in, among other places, the National Gallery, the British Library and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. In the last few years he has begun to make larger-scale work for hospitals and healthcare settings in the UK and France where his work can be seen in wards and public spaces. Most recently he has completed a scheme for the whole of a new maternity hospital in Angers.

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0 20 7493 0876

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32 St. George Street, London W1S 2EA

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