I’m interrupting my own self-imposed blog hiatus because I can’t resist the opportunity to write a little something about the exhibition I saw this week – Brian Wildsmith: Master of Colour.
I’ve been a huge fan of Brian Wildsmith‘s illustrations for years, so I was excited to see that the Illustration Cupboard, a tiny (in fact, cupboard-sized) gallery, just off Piccadilly, which specialises in children’s book illustrations, was hosting a special exhibition as part of the Wildsmith at 80 celebrations organised by Oxford University Press.
Interestingly, Wildsmith’s work isn’t hugely well-known in the UK (although he is very popular in Japan, where a whole museum is dedicated to his work) although he has certainly been an important influence on other illustrators and writers, from Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne through to younger illustrators like Catherine Rayner. I especially love this quote from Michael Rosen about his childhood memories of Wildsmith’s work “My childhood was full of books, but just as the Sixties burst into life, there seemed to be something similar happening in children’s books. Floors of colour exploding across the pages with a name to match: Wildsmith. He was a wild smith. I remember feeling really envious: why hadn’t I had books as lush and wild as these?”
“Lush and wild” sums it up perfectly, as I found when I went along to the private view on Tuesday night… Although the space was so crammed full of people that getting a really good look at any of the works was more or less impossible, this is an absolutely entrancing little exhibition, exploding with vivid colour. For me, some of Wildsmith’s older works, including these animal and bird illustrations, were an especial highlight:
Wildsmith himself was at the private view, as well as another one of my all-time favourite illustrators, Shirley Hughes (wearing an amazing green hat) and I have to admit to spending most of the evening staring at them in what I can only describe as a stalker-ish fashion.
All of the works in the exhibition are for sale; although sadly even the prints are far out of my price range, I did treat myself to a signed copy of one of my childhood favourites, newly reissued by Oxford University Press to celebrate Wildsmith’s 80th year – Animal Gallery.
There’s a nice piece about Wildsmith and his work in the Independent here.