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Exhibition of recent work by British illustrator Quentin Blake opens at the Foundling Museum
A member of the public walks amongst the latest exhibition 'As Large as Life' by British illustrator, Quentin Blake, at the Foundling Museum, London. AP Photo/Jonathan Short.

LONDON.- Quentin Blake is one of Britain’s best-loved and most successful illustrators. Well known for illustrating stories by Roald Dahl, Blake was Britain’s first Children’s Laureate. Showing at the Foundling Museum, Quentin Blake – As large as life presents recent work commissioned by four hospitals in the UK and France.

This exhibition of over sixty works enables visitors to reflect on artists’ continuing contribution to hospitals and child welfare. The Foundling Museum tells the story of the thousands of children brought up in the Foundling Hospital, Britain’s first home for abandoned babies and London’s first public art gallery. Hanging alongside Blake’s work are paintings by William Hogarth and his contemporaries who donated paintings and sculptures to the Foundling Hospital in the 1740s. The Museum’s art collection, spanning more than four centuries, provides visitors with an unexpected and resonant backdrop; one that situates Blake within a tradition of great artists making work for hospitals.

The four series of pictures by Blake are displayed throughout the Foundling Museum.

Our Friends in the Circus (2009) series depicts images of senior circus characters - jugglers, tightrope walkers, fire-eaters and clowns - celebrating the longevity of well-practised talents. This series is from a mental health ward for older adults at Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow.

Blake’s series Ordinary Life (2010) for the Vincent Square Eating Disorder Clinic, London, celebrates the quiet poetry and pleasures of everyday life. Characters engage in activities such as feeding birds on a windowsill, walking a dog, shopping in a street market and painting a self-portrait.

The third series Planet Zog (2007) sees alien creatures and young people playfully swap doctor and patient roles. Planet Zog is displayed in waiting areas and public spaces in the Alexandra Avenue Health and Social Care Centre, South Harrow.

The biggest of Blake's hospital projects, Mothers and Babies Underwater (2011) was created for the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire in Angers, France. The new maternity building is decorated with a series of fifty drawings which appear throughout, including the midwife station, father's room and the delivery suites. In them, mothers and babies swim together underwater, and look at each other for the first time. It’s a parallel world where their swimming expresses and celebrates their new-found liberty after the pains of labour.

The exhibition is accompanied by a short film in which Blake discusses the hospital commissions and his broader artistic practice.

Quentin Blake explains, “I think the very presence of pictures helps to make being in, or visiting a hospital a more normal, less alien experience. What I have tried to include is a certain amount of detail, some interesting activities, and some suggestions of the little drama of relationships, so that the viewers especially any who have to wait - may feel the desire to go on looking and perhaps even to speculate about the stories happening in front of them.”

Foundling Museum director Caro Howell comments, “Quentin Blake’s vision of the world has accompanied generations from infancy to adulthood, so much so that he is part of our cultural DNA. This exhibition demonstrates his unique gift for combining humour, compassion, observation and the imaginary. In showing these four life-affirming series at the Foundling Museum, Blake’s work is linked to a tradition over 270 years old, established by William Hogarth, of artists making work for hospital settings to improve the lives of children.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of diverse and exciting events, including family activities, workshops and a reading corner decorated with Blake’s recent designs for wallpapers produced by Osborne & Little.

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