Shapero Rare Books in London Presents Quentin Blake: Anthology of Readers Exhibit

Copyright the artist. Courtesy Shapero Rare Books.

Shapero Rare Books in London will present an exhibition of new works by Sir Quentin Blake. Opening on the November 29, 2019, Anthology of Readers comprises 60 pen, ink & watercolor drawings, all of which affectionately caricature people who love books.

Famous for his work with Roald Dahl, he provided the illustrations for The Incredible Mr Fox, Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among others. Anthology follows a highly acclaimed presentation of Blake’s work at Hastings Contemporary in the summer. 

The artworks, in various formats, are executed in the artist’s trademark style, which Daily Telegraph writer Melanie McDonagh described as “anarchic, moral, infinitely subversive, sometimes vicious, socially acute [and] sparse.” 

Prints of four of the original artworks, each in a limited edition of 25, will also be available, To mark the exhibition, Shapero has produced a fully illustrated book featuring an introduction by the historian Simon Sharma. Limited to 100 copies, it will also include a print signed by the artist himself.

Of his work, Blake says: “I do a freewheeling sort of drawing that looks as though it is done on the spur of the moment. However even a single drawing needs a certain amount of preparation and planning. Most of the time I need to do a rough in which I find out how people stand, what sort of expressions they have and how they fit on the page. For a sequence of drawings more planning is needed, and one needs to think of a number of questions at the same time (which is part of the interest of the job).”

Then, the artist employs a light box while working on his illustrations:

“I put the rough drawing I am going to work from [on the light box]… Ready to hand is a bottle of waterproof black ink and a lot of scruffy-looking dip pens… What happens next is not tracing; in fact it’s important that I can’t see the rough drawing underneath too clearly, because when I draw I try to draw as if for the first time; but I can do it with increased concentration, because the drawing underneath lets me know all the elements that have to appear and exactly where they have to be placed. 

“Normally I begin with the most difficult piece of the drawing – some particular facial expression, some particular gesture or stance – so that if I get that wrong, I don’t have to repeat the whole of the drawing. Consequently, it’s not impossible for me to find myself at the end of a session of work surrounded by expensive sheets of watercolor paper with a small face bearing not quite the right expression in the middle of each.

“There are various other stages at which I may have to stop and start again – the drawing may be finished but uncolored or even completely finished before I decide that it lacks some flavor hinted at in the rough, or that there’s some quality of line or color that doesn’t seem quite consistent with the rest of the book. And sometimes I may do two or three finished versions in the search for some phantom felicity. This comes under the heading of Artist’s Neurosis, and later I am not always sure why I made the choice I did or if it was the right one.”

About Quentin Blake 
Born in 1932, Sir Quentin Blake is one of the UK’s most beloved illustrators. In 1999, he was named the first Children’s Laureate and in 2013 he received a knighthood for “services to illustration.” The artist has won numerous awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration and the Whitbread Award. He is known for his collaboration with writers such as Russell Hoban, Joan Aiken, Michael Rosen, John Yeoman and, most famously, Roald Dahl. He has also illustrated classic books, including A Christmas Carol and Candide and created much-loved characters of his own, including Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage. 

Since the 1990s Sir Quentin Blake has had an additional career as exhibition curator, curating shows in, among other places, the National Gallery, the British Library and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. In the last few years he has begun to make larger-scale work for hospitals and healthcare settings in the UK and France where his work can be seen in wards and public spaces. Most recently, he has completed a scheme for the whole of a new maternity hospital in Angers. 

About Shapero Rare Books in London
Shapero Rare Books is an internationally renowned dealer in rare books and works on paper. Its experts have more than 100 years’ experience in the book world with particular expertise in fine illustrated books from the 15th to the 20th Century, particularly natural history, travel, guidebooks and Russian works. 

Shapero Rare Books
32 St. George Street, London
t: +44 (0) 20 74 93 08 76


Andrea Hammer
About Andrea Hammer 283 Articles
Andrea Karen Hammer is the founder, director and owner of Artsphoria Publishing, Media Group & Shop ( Artsphoria International Magazine (; Artsphoria Movie Reviews & Film Forum (; Artsphoria: Arts, Business & Technology Center (; Artsphoria Event Advertising & Reporting (; Artsphoria: Food for the Soul (; Artsphoria Animation & Imagination World ( and Artsphoria Shop ( She is a Philadelphia-based freelance writer who has published articles in international publications.

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