Never-before-seen drafts of children's classic on view at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft

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Never-before-seen drafts of children's classic on view at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft
John Vernon Lord, The Giant Jam Sandwich. Courtesy of the artist.

DITCHLING.- A new exhibition opened at Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft this Spring, to mark 50 years of revered illustrator John Vernon Lord’s life and work in Ditchling. Lord is one of Britain's most recognised and respected illustrators, owing both to his own practice, and his pioneering contribution to education across almost six decades. Lord has illustrated many classics of English literature including the work of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Aesop’s fables and James Joyce and is regarded as a pillar of the local arts community in Ditchling where he has lived since the 1970s. Also an author in his own right, Lord has written and illustrated a number of children’s books including The Giant Jam Sandwich (1972), which has since become a modern classic.

Taking a Line for a Walk features over 100 extraordinary pen and ink drawings alongside notebooks from across Lord’s career, from his student days in the late 1950s, to his move to Ditchling in the 1970s, through to new works made in response to the global pandemic.

Examples of Lord’s early work are on display, including illustrated advertisements for magazines such as House Beautiful in the 1960s, as well as an extensive collection of his work for literary classics, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Ulysses by James Joyce. These pen and ink drawings are illustrated with delicate precision, rich with whimsy and metaphor.

Highlights of the exhibition include never-before-seen drafts of The Giant Jam Sandwich. The book has remained continually in print since it was first published, and has been translated into multiple languages and sold across the globe. The drafts are being shown alongside the original manuscripts, demonstrating Lord’s meticulous and painstaking approach to the process of illustration. An interactive installation of a giant jam sandwich created by artist and Lord’s former student Emma Carlow is also on display, offering visitors the chance to experience moments from the well known classic.

Taking a Line for a Walk also chronicles the careers of some of the country’s most celebrated illustrators. The museum’s William & Margaret Rowling Gallery plays host to illustrations for children’s books by Lord’s former students from the University of Brighton where he taught as Professor of Illustration from 1986, including author and illustrator of the hugely successful Old Bear books, Jane Hissey and children’s author and Observer political cartoonist, Chris Riddell OBE.

These pieces are being presented alongside original artworks by Lord’s contemporaries, including Peter Bailey’s illustrations of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, works from Voltaire’s Candide illustrated by Quentin Blake, Oi Get off Our Train by author and illustrator John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury’s illustrations in Trish Cooke’s modern classic, So Much.

John Vernon Lord (b.1939) studied at Salford School of Art and at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. He began his career as a commercial artist then worked as a book illustrator from 1967 onwards. His best-known works include children’s book The Giant Jam Sandwich (1972) and his award-winning edition of The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear (1984). His Aesop’s Fables won the overall V&A/WH Smith Prize for illustration in 1990 and in 2018 he was awarded the V&A Moira Gemmill Illustrator of the Year award and the Best Illustrated Book prize at the V&A Illustration Awards, for his illustrations in James Joyce’s Ulysses. For the past 57 years Lord has lectured on the art of illustration in the UK and internationally. He was chair of the Graphic Design Board of the Council for Academic Awards and is Professor Emeritus at the University of Brighton, having been Professor of Illustration there from 1986.

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