Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic – V&A

Winnie-the-Pooh poster

As a lifelong Winnie-the-Pooh fan, I was delighted to be able to visit the V&A‘s new exhibition, Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic. Themed around the world of the books, it welcomed visitors with a greeting and the themed decor made you really feel part of the Hundred Acre Wood. There was a slide and assorted activities for children – but I couldn’t help being glad that during my visit, on a Friday evening, there weren’t many kids around.

Hallo

Pooh-themed toys
Pooh-themed toys

The exhibition began with a display of the various Pooh-themed toys, games and accessories that have been created over the years. I was particularly pleased to see a cuddly toy version of the Soviet Pooh, which I love, but was gutted to spy a gorgeous Cath Kidston dress that I obviously missed when it was in store.

Soviet Pooh
Soviet Pooh
Cath Kidston dress
Cath Kidston dress

The exhibition explored the writer, A. A. Milne, and the illustrator, E. H. Shepard, and the history of the Pooh stories. Particularly fascinating were the sections on how the two worked together to produce stories that seamlessly blended words and pictures, strongly appealing to little ones (as well as grown-ups like me!).

North Pole

I found the exhibition completely fascinating, and it really reignited my love for Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. (I’ve always felt a particular affinity for Piglet).

Goodbye

Friendly with Bears

A Moomin Winter’s Eve / Tove Jansson (1914-2001) – Dulwich Picture Gallery

exhibition poster

This year I read the Moomin books for the first time, and I also visited the Adventures in Moominland exhibition at the Southbank Centre. Continuing the theme, Dulwich Picture Gallery announced a Tove Jansson exhibition for 2017-2018, covering her artwork and illustrations from self-portraits to the Moomins and beyond.

Some friends and I booked to attend the special December event, A Moomin Winter’s Eve. This was an after-hours event that offered activities as well as a chance to look around the exhibition. When we arrived – after spending a while waiting for a bus at Brixton – we headed straight into the exhibition before it got too busy.

Tove Jansson (1914-2001) begins with the artist’s early work, striking self-portraits sitting alongside magazine illustration and magical landscapes. Her later work incorporates more traditional painting, before she turned to illustration in a bigger way. I had no idea Jansson was responsible for illustrating Swedish versions of The Lord of The Rings and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – her work is distinctively her own but also clearly captures the atmosphere of the stories.

Then comes her Moomin work, which forms around half of the exhibition. I love her wonderfully expressive drawings of these fantastical creatures, and it was fascinating to see them close up. As the daughter of two painters, Jansson saw herself primarily as a painter even while the world revered her for her work as a writer and illustrator, but while this exhibition helps to paint a wider picture of the artist, she is likely to remain best known for the Moomins. And why not? Her illustrations are certainly classifiable as art, and her books are children’s classics.

pom pom table

After the exhibition, we decided to check out some of the activities. First we went to make flower garlands in a Pom Pom Blossom workshop, run by Pom Pom Factory. We ended up wearing them for the rest of the evening.

My Moomin masterpiece

We then went to join the table drawing Moomin self-portraits. I am certainly no artist, but having a framework of a Moomin silhouette to work on, I managed to produce something passable.

Moomin collage

Finally we went down to the Moominvalley Photobooth, the idea here being to create a collage inspired by Moominvalley and have your photo taken, then superimposed onto your background. Sadly the camera battery ran out while we were making our collage, but it was still great fun.

The exhibition and the evening were lovely and a nice relaxing way to spend a Friday night.

House of Illustration

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The House of Illustration is a relatively new gallery in the recently redeveloped Granary Square in King’s Cross. It is home to changing exhibitions covering the history of illustration in all its forms: recent exhibitions have included images from Ladybird books and the work of Quentin Blake.

I visited in order to see the Main Gallery exhibition, E. H. Shepard: An Illustrator’s War. Shepard is perhaps best known for his classic illustrations of A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh stories, probably as well-known as the books themselves. I had no idea until very recently that he also produced a great deal of work while serving in the trenches of the First World War.

Shepard’s distinctive style is evident in these wartime artworks, but the subject matter is very different. His pictures include humorous images of soldiers trying to make the best of life in the trenches, stark pictures of bare landscapes, and even topographical works used for strategic purposes. Many of his cartoons were sent to Punch and other publications. Shepard also spent time in Italy towards the end of the war, producing fascinating drawings of the scenes he witnessed, and meeting none other than the author Ernest Hemingway. Some of his work was more personal: he drew pictures in his diaries and in letters to his wife, which are on display for the first time. It was fascinating to see this different side to the familiar illustrator.

While in the building I also visited the exhibition in the South Gallery, Lauren Child’s Dolls’ House. Childs is an author and illustrator most famous for the Charlie and Lola books – I’ve heard of these books even though I don’t have anything to do with small children, which suggests that they are pretty successful. Childs has been working on her own dolls’ house for over 30 years, and it is beautiful – extremely detailed. Alongside the house, sets from the author’s works are displayed: the book The Princess and the Pea was made with photographs of three-dimensional miniature sets.

The House of Illustration is well worth a visit, possibly more than one, as the constantly changing exhibitions ensure that you are likely to go back again and again.

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FACTS

Address: 2 Granary Square, King’s Cross, London, N1C 4BH

Website: houseofillustration.org.uk

Opening Hours: 10-6 Tues-Sun

Prices: £7.70 adults, £5.50 concessions, £4.40 children; half price for Art Fund members