Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sir Quentin Saxby Blake, CBE, FCSD, FRSL, RDI (born 16 December 1932) is an English cartoonist, illustrator and children's writer. He may be known best for illustrating books written by Roald Dahl. For his lasting contribution as a children's illustrator he won the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2002, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books. From 1999 to 2001 he was the inaugural British Children's Laureate.


Quentin Blake

Blake was born in 1932 in Sidcup, Kent, and was evacuated to the West Country during the war. He attended Holy Trinity Lamorbey CofE Primary School and, later, Chislehurst and Sidcup Grammar School, where his English teacher, J H Walsh, influenced his ambition to become involved in literature. His first published drawing was for the satirical magazine Punch, at the age of 16. He read English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge from 1953 to 1956, received his postgraduate teaching diploma from the University of London, and later studied part-time at the Chelsea School of Art and later Camberwell College of Art. He has since denied that studying at the University of Cambridge contributed to his artistic or creative talent. He gained a teaching diploma at the Institute of Education.


Quentin Blake

During the 1960s, Blake taught English at the Lycée Français de Londres which cemented his long association with France and culminated in the award of the Legion of Honour (see below). He taught at the Royal College of Art for over twenty years, where he was head of the Illustration department from 1978 to 1986.

Blake illustrated "The Wonderful Button" by Evan Hunter, published by Abelard-Schuman in 1961.

Blake gained a reputation as a reliable and humorous illustrator of more than 300 children's books, including some written by Joan Aiken, Elizabeth Bowen, Roald Dahl, Nils-Olof Franzén, William Steig, and Dr. Seuss â€"the first Seuss book that "Seuss" did not illustrate himself, Great Day for Up! (1974).

By 2006, Blake had illustrated 323 books, of which he had written 35 and Dahl had written 18. To date, Blake has illustrated two of David Walliams's books and has illustrated Folio Society Limited Editions such as Don Quixote, Candide and 50 Fables of LaFontaine.

Other activities

Quentin Blake

In the 1970s Blake was an occasional presenter of the BBC children's story-telling programme Jackanory, when he would illustrate the stories on a canvas as he was telling them.

In 1993 he designed the five British Christmas issue postage stamps featuring episodes from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Quentin Blake is patron of the Blake Society, Downing College's arts and humanities society. He is also a patron of "The Big Draw" which aims to get people drawing throughout the United Kingdom, and of The Nightingale Project, a charity that puts art into hospitals. Since 2006 he has produced work for several hospitals and mental health centres in the London area, a children's hospital (hopital Armand Trousseau) in Paris, and a maternity hospital in Angers, France. These projects are detailed in Blake's 2012 book Quentin Blake: Beyond the Page, which describes how, in his seventies, his work has increasingly appeared outside the pages of books, in public places such as hospitals, theatre foyers, galleries and museums.

In 2007 he designed a huge mural on fabric, suspended over and thus disguising a ramshackle building immediately opposite an entrance to St Pancras railway station. The rendering of an "imaginary welcoming committee" greets passengers arriving on the Eurostar high-speed railway.

Blake is also the designer of 'Ben', the 'logo' of the shop chain, Ben's Cookies.

Blake also designed several illustrations for the story time segments for the Scottish TV series Squeak!

Quentin Blake is a supporter and Ambassador for the indigenous rights NGO, Survival International. In 2009, he said, "For me, Survival is important for two reasons; one is that I think it’s right that we should give help and support to people who are threatened by the rapacious industrial society we have created; and the other that, more generally, it gives an important signal about how we all ought to be looking after the world. Its message is the most fundamental of any charity I'm connected with."

Blake is a Trustee of The House of Illustration, a centre in London for exhibitions, educational events and activities related to the art of illustration. He was also the subject of the first exhibition at this venue, entitled Inside Stories, which opened in July 2014.

Selected works

Quentin Blake

These 35 books were both written and illustrated by Blake.

  • Patrick (Jonathan Cape, 1968)
  • Jack and Nancy (Cape, 1969)
  • Angelo (Cape, 1970)
  • Snuff (Cape, 1973)
  • Lester at the Seaside (William Collins, Sons, 1975)
  • Lester and the Unusual Pet (Collins, 1975)
  • The Adventures of Lester (BBC, 1977)
  • Mister Magnolia (Cape, 1980) â€"winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal
  • Quentin Blake's Nursery Rhyme Book (Cape, 1983)
  • The Story of the Dancing Frog (Cape, 1984)
  • Mrs Armitage On Wheels (Cape, 1987)
  • Quentin Blake's ABC (Cape, 1989)
  • All Join In (Cape, 1990) â€"winner of the Kurt Maschler Award for integrated text and illustration
  • Cockatoos (Cape, 1992)
  • Simpkin (Cape, 199)
  • The Quentin Blake Book of Nonsense Verse (Viking Press, 1994)
  • Clown (Cape, 1995) â€"commended runner-up for the Greenaway Medal
  • La Vie de la Page (Gallimard, 1995)
  • Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave (Cape, 1997)
  • Dix Grenouilles (Ten Frogs) (Gallimard, 1997)
  • The Green Ship (Cape, 1998)
  • Zagazoo (Cape, 1998)
  • Zap! The Quentin Blake Guide to Electrical Safety (Eastern Electricity, 1998)
  • Fantastic Daisy Artichoke (Cape, 1999)
  • The Laureate's Party (Random House, 2000)
  • Un Bateau Dans le Ciel (Rue du Monde, 2000)
  • Words and Pictures (Cape, 2000)
  • Tell Me a Picture (National Gallery, 2001)
  • Loveykins (Cape, 2002)
  • Laureate's Progress (Cape, 2002)
  • Mrs Armitage, Queen of the Road (Cape, 2003)
  • A Sailing Boat In The Sky (Random House: Red Fox, 2003)
  • Angel Pavement (Cape, 2004)
  • You're Only Young Twice (Andersen Press, 2008)
  • Daddy Lost his Head (Andre Bouchard, 2009)
  • Quentin Blake: Beyond the Page (Tate Publishing Ltd, 2012)

As illustrator

  • The Wonderful Button by Evan Hunter (Abelard-Schuman, 1961)
  • The Uncle books by J. P. Martin
Uncle (Jonathan Cape, 1964)
Uncle Cleans Up (Jonathan Cape, 1965)
Uncle and His Detective (Jonathan Cape, 1966)
Uncle and the Treacle Trouble (Jonathan Cape, 1967)
Uncle and Claudius the Camel (Jonathan Cape, 1970)
Uncle and the Battle for Badgertown (Jonathan Cape, 1973)
Collected as The Complete Uncle, Matador (2013)
  • "Pigeon of Paris" by Natalie Savage Carlson, Scholastic, 1974
  • The Wild Washerwomen: A new folk tale, by John Yeoman (1979) â€"highly commended runner-up for the Greenaway Medal
  • Sad Book, by Michael Rosen (2004)

Blake has illustrated a score of books by Roald Dahl.

He also illustrated the British edition of Agaton Sax, a Swedish-language series of comedy detective novels by Nils-Olof Franzén (originally illustrated by Åke Lewerth, 1955 to 1978).

  • Agaton Sax and the Diamond Thieves, 1965
  • Agaton Sax and the Scotland Yard Mystery, 1969
  • Agaton Sax and the Max Brothers (a.k.a. Bank Robbers), 1970
  • Agaton Sax and the Criminal Doubles, 1971
  • Agaton Sax and the Colossus of Rhodes, 1972
  • Agaton Sax and the London Computer Plot, 1973
  • Agaton Sax and the League of Silent Exploders, 1974
  • Agaton Sax and the Haunted House, 1975
  • Agaton Sax and the Big Rig (extended), 1976
  • Agaton Sax and Lispington's Grandfather Clock, 1978
  • The Learning Journey â€"National Curriculum, key stages 1 and 2, illustrated editions for parents

Honours and awards

Quentin Blake

Blake was the inaugural British Children's Laureate (1999â€"2001) and he received the biennial Hans Christian Andersen Award from the International Board on Books for Young People for his career contribution to children's literature in 1987. He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2005 New Year Honours for his services to children's literature. In France he was made a Knight of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2002 and elevated to Officer in 2007.

For Mister Magnolia, which he also wrote, Blake won the 1980 Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject. For the 50th anniversary of the Medal (1955â€"2005), a panel of experts named it one of the top ten winning works, which composed the ballot for a public election of the nation's favourite. He was also a highly commended Greenaway runner-up for The Wild Washerwomen: A new folk tale, by John Yeoman (1979), and a commended runner-up for Clown (1995), which he wrote himself. He made the Greenaway shortlist for Zagazoo (1998), which he wrote, and for Sad Book (2004) by Michael Rosen.

He won the Kurt Maschler Award, or the Emil, for All Join In (Jonathan Cape, 1990), which he wrote and illustrated. The award from Maschler Publications and Booktrust annually recognised one British "work of imagination for children, in which text and illustration are integrated so that each enhances and balances the other."

Blake was awarded the Prince Philip Designers' Prize in 2011.

He received the Eleanor Farjeon Award in November 2012. The an annual award administered by Children's Book Circle recognises outstanding commitment and contribution to the world of British children's books.

Blake was knighted in the 2013 New Year Honours for his services to illustration. In March 2014 he was awarded the insignia of Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur at a ceremony at the Institut Français in London.

See also


Quentin Blake


Quentin Blake
  • D. Martin, "Quentin Blake", in Douglas Martin, The Telling Line: Essays On Fifteen Contemporary Book Illustrators (Julia MacRae Books, 1989), pp. 243â€"263
  • Quentin Blake, "Research from an illustrator's point of view", in Research in Illustration: Conference Proceedings Part II (Brighton Polytechnic) (1981), pp. 25â€"61

External links

Quentin Blake
  • Official website (current); Bibliography Archived January 16, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  • Quentin Blake at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Quentin Blake at British Council: Literature
  • Quentin Blake: Biography at the British Cartoon Archive, University of Kent
  • Quentin Blake at Andersen Press
  • Searchable Archive
Interviews and articles
  • "A free hand", Stuart Jeffries with Quentin Blake, The Guardian, 27 September 2007
  • Quentin Blake tells his life story (recording in 65 parts) at Web of Stories
  • Quentin Blake: Winner, Hans Christian Andersen Award, 2002 (recording), The Hans Christian Andersen Collection at Northwestern
  • Quentin Blake Visits Sidcup Library at the Wayback Machine (archived November 21, 2008), on 2007 dialogue with children
  • Quentin Blake at the Wayback Machine (archived February 27, 2009) at Random House Children's Books (archived 2009-02-27)
  • "What is illustration?" on YouTube (recording), extract from a presentation given by Quentin Blake to a teachers' workshop run by the House of Illustration and DCSF in July 2008
  • "Quentin Blake at 80: the illustrator's magical art", Jenny Uglow, The Guardian, 14 December 2012

Quentin Blake
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