Art | Need To Now

Unseen delights from Quentin Blake

The illustrator’s 80th birthday is celebrated with a new exhibition

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Unseen delights from Quentin Blake

December 12 2012
Nicole Swengley

Quentin Blake’s distinctive and humorous high-energy illustrations have amused and intrigued admirers for more than six decades. So a show of never-before-seen works to mark the artist’s 80th birthday on December 16 is cause for celebration.

Head of the Royal College of Art’s illustration department from 1978 to 1986, Blake is best known for the images he created to accompany Roald Dahl’s stories and his own children’s books. Indeed, he was crowned the inaugural British Children’s Laureate in 1999. However, the work presented in the Marlborough Fine Art show is far more personal – a collection of new drawings, etchings and lithographs that stand alone from a written narrative.

Acutely observed relationships between young and old, family and friends, humans and animals give rise to pictures that delight in the emotion and absurdity of life. Humour, sadness, joy and disappointment leap from the page through subtle nuances of pencil, pastel, watercolour and etching needle. Series include The Insects colour etchings and aquatints (£600 unframed), Girl and Dogs lithographs (£1,020 unframed), Sporting Women watercolour pastels (example in fourth picture, £6,000 framed), Women in Water watercolour pastels (example in third picture, £4,200 framed) and Old and Young in pen, ink and watercolour (examples in first and second pictures, £4,800 framed). There are also two series in black chinagraph marker: Characters in Search of a Story and Companions (£4,800 framed).

A fully illustrated catalogue (£5), with an introduction by historian Jenny Uglow, is also available at this delightful show – a toast to Blake’s evergreen draughtsmanship and wonderfully imaginative and witty observations of life.