This July, Christie’s will present Quentin Blake: A Retrospective; Forty Years of Alternative Versions, a series of illustrations offered directly from the personal collection of one of Britain's best-loved illustrators. As part of Christie’s Classic Week, a selection of 30 illustrations by Quentin Blake will be presented in the Valuable Books and Manuscripts auction on 11 July, alongside a dedicated online sale of 148 illustrations open for bidding from 3 to 12 July. The works from this sale are being sold to benefit House of Illustration, Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity and Survival International. Quentin Blake: A Retrospective; Forty Years of Alternative Versions will be on view and open to the public from 7 to 10 July at Christie’s London. Estimates range from £200 to £10,000.
The collection comprises works from the past 40 years of Quentin Blake’s career, showcasing some of the most celebrated literary characters of today, which have captured the imagination of generations of children including Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, and James and the Giant Peach to David Walliams’s Mr Stink. Alongside these cherished children’s stories, the sale presents collectors the opportunity to acquire works from various other projects that Blake has worked on including editions illustrated for The Folio Society and artwork for J Sheekey Restaurant, along with illustrations for various public spaces, such as St George’s Hospital, Tooting and the Maternity Unit at Angers University Hospital in France.
Highlights include works for The Enormous Crocodile, Roald Dahl’s first book to be illustrated by Blake, and preliminary drawings showing the genesis of one of Roald Dahl’s best-loved creations, the Big Friendly Giant. These illustrations will be presented alongside further children’s favorites, including Fantastic Mr Fox, Billy and the Minpins and perhaps two of the most fearsome and wicked of Roald Dahl’s characters The Twits. In 2016, Blake completed a series of works for the Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits project, celebrating 100 years since the author’s birth: Charlie, Willie Wonka and Grandpa Joe, Matilda, and Sophie and the BFG are among the famous Roald Dahl characters depicted in a series of ten portraits by Blake, who asks the viewers to imagine the characters have been invited to sit for their portrait, thus truly bringing these well-known characters to life. Further works in the sale include drawings of Blake’s marvellous portrayal of Beatrix Potter’s protagonist for her long-lost work from 1914, The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots. The story was rediscovered in the archives of the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2015 and Blake’s illustrations of Kitty and her adventures have helped establish the story as a firm favourite within children’s literature.
Alternative aspects of Blake’s work will be explored, including a group of pencil drawings from his exhibition Arrows of Love, depicting women avoiding or embracing Cupid’s arrow. These rarely-seen nudes reveal Blake’s personal reflections on the joy, folly and sorrow of love. Further illustrations presented in the sale include his work for the Atlantic Bar at J Sheekey restaurant in London, portraying J Sheekey’s chefs, sommeliers and patrons swimming among shoals of fish and sea-creatures. The under-the-sea theme is a particular favourite of Blake’s and is continued in the auction with drawings from the Jerwood Gallery's exhibition in 2015 'Life under Water: A Hastings Celebration', capturing the vibrancy of this historic seaside town. Blake’s work for The Folio Society presents a unique aspect of his oeuvre and the sale will include various examples from The Golden Ass by Apuleius, in which Blake captures the comic spirit of the text, along with the complexity of tone. Further works from the Folio Society will be presented, such as Victor Hugo’s 1829 novel Notre Dame de Paris and Russell Hoban’s genre-defying masterpiece Riddley Walker.
Quentin Blake is one of today’s most recognised illustrators, 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 and created much-loved characters of his own, including Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage. His books have won numerous prizes and awards, including the Whitbread Award, the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award and the international Bologna Ragazzi Prize. He won the 2002 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Illustration, the highest international recognition given to creators of children's books. In 1999 he was appointed the first UK Children’s Laureate and in 2005 was created CBE. This was followed in 2013 by a knighthood for 'services to illustration' in the New Year's Honours. In 2014 Blake was admitted to the Legion d'Honneur.