Children’s Illustrated Classics at the British Library


marmaladecat_AmandaFletcher_jan2014What’s your favourite classic children’s story? Which pictures made the most impression on you as a child?

Ten stories are featured in an exhibition of Children’s Illustrated Classics at the British Library, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Hobbit and The Iron Man.

I can’t remember who illustrated the version of The Hobbit that I first read, but here I was struck by the fine detail of Tolkien’s original artwork and by the graphic images of Eric Fraser’s reinterpretation from ’79.

The show includes video interviews with four of the artists describing how they work with the text, and sometimes the author, to develop their designs. I was particularly interested in what they said about their creative processes.

Michael Foreman illustrated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (before Quentin Blake). He keeps sketch books to jot down random ideas and said:

It’s like they’re ingredients and every now and then you can make a complete dish or find a missing ingredient.

Lauren Child uses a mix of collage and drawing in the Secret Garden.  She likes collage for the happy accidents and the way that she can ‘push things around until they work’.

The final artist interview was David Roberts talking about The Wind in the Willows. I haven’t seen his work before and now I have a new favourite! He used Klimt as a reference for background patterns, giving Ratty and Mole a whole new stylish outlook while keeping their original character – wonderful.

Thinking back to my childhood I loved the soft drawings  in the Wind in the Willows, but to illustrate this post I’ve chosen Marmalade the Cat. My Dad made up stories about Marmalade and his antics to keep me and my sisters entertained when we were small.


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