Young at art; Children's illustrators have been the highlight of a Coventry gallery this summer. JULIE CHAMBERLAIN reports.
The Herbert in Coventry is showing Sir John Tenniel's illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice books in its Looking in Wonderland exhibition. The small works, printed directly from the original wood blocks which Tenniel used well over 100 years ago, are from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from 1865 and Through the Looking Glass (and what Alice found there).
The delight is in getting up close to see the characters coming out in the figures from the book. There's the haughtiness in the Queen's expression and a supercilious courtier. The incongruity of a rabbit looking at a pocket watch suddenly stands out, and the silliness of a caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah pipe while Alice's eyes peep over at it.
There are lines from the book pulled out to go with illustrations such as ''The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in mounting her flamingo'' and the nonsense nature of the verse comes over.
In the other gallery, the contrast could not be greater than with the large, colourful illustrations of Quentin Blake, his works in books such as those by Roald Dahl much loved by children today.
A These works though, in an exhibition called As Large As Life, were done for public spaces in hospitals and health clinics around the world, including a maternity hospital in France, and an eating disorder clinic.
Illustrations for an adult mental health ward in England focus on characters in a circus trying feats which may be beyond them.
Other works for a maternity hospital show mainly mums and babies floating underwater in their own happy and safe world. If both these exhibitions sound familiar, it's because they are - the Blake one was on show last year at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, and the Tenniel one in Leamington, but hopefully now they're both on show in the city they'll reach a new audience.
A Quentin Blake drawing.
Alice In Wonderland illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.