Quentin Blake: The Sennelier Portraits
Two icons of the art world will come together for a monumental exhibition in spring 2020.
Using materials from Sennelier, the legendary French art supplies brand, British national treasure Sir Quentin Blake has created a brand-new body of work - in his inimitable style.
Sir Quentin is an artist and illustrator who needs little introduction. Countless millions of Britons have grown up with Blake’s work, while current and future generations around the world continue to do so.
And at 86-years of age he is showing no signs of slowing down!
Throughout 2019 he has created more than 100 new portraits, which all have one thing in common – they have been produced using nothing but a thick, black oil pastel stick by Sennelier.
Some of the works are small (no more than A5-size), while others are large (more than a metre square). Some of the portraits are naturalistic and others grotesques. The untitled portraits are all characters drawn purely from Sir Quentin’s imagination. Sir Quentin explains how the project came about: “I’ve had the stub of a Sennelier oil stick in my studio in Hastings for a very long time. I had bought it on one of my regular trips to France, but just never used it. One day I picked it up and decided to see what it can do – I loved it and that is how all this started.”
The original stick was quickly used up, requiring more to be ordered. “I find it fascinating to see all the different ways I can use just one oil stick to create so many different artistic effects. I keep trying to stop doing the portraits, but I can’t - they just keep coming.”
Sennelier has a long history of working with great artists. Gustave Sennelier opened his art supply store in 1887, near the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in Paris and it wasn’t long before the firm had become famous, thanks to the patronage of the likes of Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet, van Gogh, Bonnard, Soutine, Modigliani, Kandinsky and Dali. Indeed, a range of extra-soft pastels - created especially for him - became Degas’ favourite and in 1949, Sennelier’s son Henri, created the first professional-quality oil pastel for Picasso, who wanted colours he could use on any surface, without any special preparation.
Sir Quentin Blake himself has enjoyed a long and close relationship with France. In 2004 he was awarded the ‘Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres’ by the French Government for services to literature and, in 2007, ‘QB’ was made Officier in the same order. In 2014, he was admitted to the Legion d’Honneur, an honour accorded to few people who are not French nationals.
“I am also hoping this exhibition is also a chance for me to say ’Thank you, France’ for the inspiration of their dessinateurs, as well as for allowing me to make drawings for the walls of the Petit Palais, the Hospital Armand Trousseau in Paris and the Maternité in Angers. And, for the welcome and enthusiasm I have received in schools and libraries all over their country. Merci la France!”
For more information on Quentin Blake: The Sennelier Portraits and all things QB, see https://www.quentinblake.com
Sir Quentin Blake was born in 1932. He read English at Downing College, Cambridge; Education at the London Institute of Education and attended life classes at Chelsea School of Art. He taught illustration for over twenty years at the Royal College of Art. His first illustrated book, A Drink of Water by John Yeoman appeared in 1960, and since then he has worked on over 300, collaborating, with many other writers including Russell Hoban, Michael Rosen, and Roald Dahl. He is also known for his own picture books such as Clown and Zagazoo, and his illustrations for the Folio Society to classics such as Don Quixote, Candide and The Golden Ass. In the past fifteen years he has also worked on many projects for museums, hospitals, and other public spaces but in England and in France. In 1999 he was appointed first Children’s Laureate. He was knighted in 2013 for services to illustration, and he is also a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. He has written three books about his own work, Words and Pictures and Beyond the Page and Pens Ink and Places. He lives in London and Hastings.
The Coningsby Gallery, 30 Tottenham Street, London, W1T 4RJ. Open 9am-6pm, Monday to Friday. More at www.coningsbygallery.com