Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Children's book illustration at The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle

Left: Michael Bond, Paddington Goes for Gold. HarperCollins Children's Books. Images © RW Alley; Right: Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Puffin Books. Image © Quentin Blake

Picture This exhibition at The Laing Art Gallery celebrates children's literature illustrations

Sam Wonfor
1 June 2015

Rare first editions and original artwork by some of the world’s top children’s illustrators will be on display on Tyneside for the summer.

Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics is a British Library exhibition coming to The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle and is sure to be on the to do lists of families all over the North East and, indeed, anyone who grew up loving and reading any one of the 10 titles which will be the focus of the display.

Just So Stories, The Iron Man, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Wind in the Willows, Paddington Bear, Peter Pan and Wendy, The Hobbit, The Borrowers, The Secret Garden and The Railway Children are the double handful of classics which will be celebrated.

Featuring beautiful first editions and artwork by artists including Quentin Blake, Michael Foreman, Peggy Fortnum and Lauren Child, the exhibition will also revisit much-loved stories and characters that have been re-illustrated and reinterpreted for different generations of children.

There will be reading areas for children and families to enjoy, and a cinema space showing short films of illustrators talking about their work.

Adults will be able to reminisce about their favourite childhood stories and different generations can debate which illustrations are the best.

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden. Puffin Books. Image © Lauren Child, 2011

Featuring at least three illustrated editions or pieces of artwork for each title, the exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of summer family events and opportunities for children (and adults) to meet their favourite characters.

Picture This: Children’s Illustrated Classics will open at The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle on June 20 and run until September 27. Admission charges apply, children under 12 go free. Visit www.laingartgallery.org.uk for details.


As I recall, the last time the Laing held an exhibition of children's book illustration was one of the rare  times I've seen it relatively busy outside of private views with free wine for all. Those were the days...

This was - to put it simply - one of the worst exhibitions I've ever seen at this miserable excuse for an art gallery. There was very little original art, far too many blown up pictures on display panels and far too many illustrations in books. The fact that they were first editions, to be quite honest, means nothing. There should have been more original artwork on display. It was a cheap and nasty exhibition designed to con parents into taking along their kids during the summer holidays. Needless to say, in true Laing style, when I went along, the only visitor under the age of forty was my daughter. Most (and I use the word because in the context of virtually any exhibition at the Laing, 'most' is entirely relative and should get a laugh) of the other ten to twenty visitors were considerably older (than me). Sad thing is, a stone's throw away along the Ouseburn, Seven Storeys has more original art than you could shake a stick at - if that's your idea of a good time. Once again, Newcastle's premier art gallery, the one that brought you 'Gauguin and Friends', consisting of very few Gauguins but a lot of friends, failed to deliver.

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