Quentin Blake: Gifted, Foundling Museum, Sept 2021

The essence of story telling is at the heart of the latest exhibition at the Foundling Museum. Sir Quentin Blake, iconic artist and illustrator of many Roald Dahl books has gifted 24 large scale drawings to the museum. They are displayed in two emotive series – ‘Children and dogs’, and ‘Children, Birds and Dogs’.

“The drawings in my donation look at the relationship of the children I draw with living things around them – sometimes positive but often tentative…”

Quentin Blake
Quentin Blake – Children and dogs.

There is a simplicity and gentle charm to the images. What captures you is the few seemingly sparse lines that can evoke such meaning and storytelling.

The Foundling Museum has invited a number of authors and poets to respond to the illustrations. In a neat reversal of process the artworks are not a response to the written word or illustration of a text, here they sit in their own right as prompts for the beginning, middle and end of a story.

Commissioned words from a number of authors including Jackie Kay, Michael Rosen and 4 Brown Girls Who Write (Roshni Goyate, Sharan Hunjan, Sunnah Khan and Sheena Patel) sit side by side with Quentin’s work inspired by imaginative journeys into the feelings and experiences of childhood.

Jackie Kay’s poem echoes the belief that robins are the souls of the departed visiting friends and family in a moment of comfort and memory beautifully mirroring Blake’s bird on a branch.

“My Mum is a Robin”

I’m pretty sure my mum is a robin

One minute and a wren the next

On Sunday a wren, a sparrow tomorrow,

Maybe a Jackdaw on Monday

Always flying close, close to me

As if to say here I am, here I am

My daughter can’t you see me?

Can’t you hear my song, see my fly near you.

Listen to the music of my wings.

excerpt from “My Mum is a Robin by Jackie Kay”

The exhibition works as inspiration for artists and wordsmiths of all ages. Who can’t help but wonder at how in the hands of a master the tilt of a head can give the hint of a story, how an outstretched arm, flung to the heavens can be the beginnings of a caper and the shade of a big dog can give comfort to two small souls.

Stories can begin in so many ways from the scratch of a pen on lined paper, the tap of a keyboard and the blue pen mark on an inviting sheet of blank paper.

You only have till 24th September to visit and begin your story with Quentin Blake: Gifted at the Foundling Museum where creativity and ideas are always welcome.

Quentin Blake


‘Quentin Blake: Gifted’ is on at the Foundling Museum till 26th September, for opening times and ticket prices please see the website – https://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/events/quentin-blake-gifted/

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