Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Classic Book Illustrations through the Generations

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Classic Book Illustrations through the Generations

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone Culture Editor

Mark Hunt , Laing Art Gallery duty manager, with the Iron Man.

WHAT exactly does a hobbit look like? Or a borrower? What does Peter Pan wear when he's nipping around Neverland? And how would you recognise Toad of Toad Hall? The answers to all these questions might depend on your age - or on which edition of a famous book you got your hands on as a young reader.

This is clear in a new exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery featuring ten classic children's books from the 20th century and the illustrators who have brought them to life for different generations.

Picture This: Children's Illustrated Classics is the first touring exhibition from the British Library and this is its first stop - nearly 20 years after the Lindisfarne Gospels was loaned to the Laing by the same London institution.

Co-curator Tanya Kirk, from the British Library, said: "Our idea was to look at the great diversity of illustration in children's books.

"We wanted to look at how it changed over the 20th century and we decided to pick ten really important children's classics. All of them have been illustrated by at least three different people.

"We wanted it to be something that children and adults would enjoy."

Tanya suggested the way the chosen books were illustrated determined how readers would visualise the characters thereafter.

The oldest book on show is the Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling which was published in 1902 with illustrations by the author.

Kipling's black-and-white silhouette-style illustration of one of the stories, The Elephant's Child, or How the Elephant Got his Trunk, featured on the cover of the first edition and can be seen in the exhibition.

"We found these illustrations were so iconic that lots of more modern illustrators used a similar style," said Tanya.

When Kenneth Grahame delivered his manuscript of The Wind in the Willows - published in 1908 - he insisted it would be impossible to illustrate.

"This is ironic because this is one of the most illustrated books ever," said Tanya.

The first edition, though, only did two chapters."

Paddington Bear was inspired by a teddy bear that author Michael Bond bought for his wife for Christmas. But illustrator Peggy Fortnum, now 95, went to study real bears at the zoo before producing the illustrations for the book which first came out in 1958.

In the 1980s illustrator David McKee had a go at Paddington and the character became teddyish again.

The exhibition also shows the relationship between books and films.

The Railway Children, by E (Edith) Nesbit, was first published in 1906 with illustrations by CE Brock.

But in 1970 came the film starring Jenny Agutter as 'Bobbie'.

It was a big hit. …

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