For weeks I had wandered past the posters outside the Fitzwilliam Museum advertising the Quentin Blake exhibition: Drawn By Hand, always meaning to go in but somehow putting it off each time. I suddenly realised I only had a week left until it closed, so popped into the tiny (free) exhibition space in Cambridge’s principal art gallery.
I instantly regretted not coming sooner as I would have returned every week to wander around the room if I’d known how much I would enjoy it! There were seventeen works in total, which varied from Blake’s well known book illustrations, to pieces he had produced for hospitals and for the university itself. A central exhibit displayed the pens, brushes, palettes and etching plates used to produce the works, lent from the artist’s studio.
A number of works depicted mothers and babies swimming underwater, and were designed for maternity units, such as those in the nearby Addenbrokes Hospital.
Blake’s connection to Cambridge was also represented by works he had produced for the university’s 800th Anniversary in 2009, such as the panoramic scene of students set against a backdrop of fireworks, cycling into the sky.
These splashes of colour are archetypal of Blake’s style, and bring even his occasionally morbid drawings to life, such as the book illustration of a bishop being hung.
I did in fact return on the final day of the exhibition as the works were so enjoyable to view, all displaying Blake’s quintessential charm. Never have I left an exhibition feeling happier.
All photographs courtesy of Quentin Blake’s website: http://www.quentinblake.com/index.php