18 December 2017

Wallowing in Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic at V&A

I had gone to V&A to see Opera: Passion, Power and Politics but it would have been stupidity to go all that way and not also see Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic.

I needed a rest first and I went to the cafe, as I do on every visit to V&A, and had a nice bowl of comforting soup. One of the advantages of going during the week was that I was easily able to get a table in the William Morris room.

Rested, I went to the new entrance, it being the closest, and with not much difficulty managed to use one of the large self-service touch screens to buy a ticket for the first free slot to Winnie-the-Pooh, which was about an hour later. That gave me just the right amount of time to find (the hardest part) and visit the display Into the Woods: Trees in Illustration, and then return to the cafe for a coffee and some cake.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic was in half of the main exhibition space which gave me an estimated visit time of an hour, long enough given what I had already done and my interest in the subject.

The exhibition was stuffed full of E.H. Shepard drawings of all types and stages from woodland scenes used for research through to drawings he added colour to when in his nineties. The drawings were every bit as charming as I remembered from the books, probably more so.

The text with the pictures helpfully explained the techniques and tools used, e.g. the different types of pencils he worked with and the way shading was used to produce different effects.

It was also fascinating to learn about the way that the illustrations were always designed to be embedded in the text with individual pages being design in the same way that pages in a comic are.

This being V&A there was a lot more to the exhibition than words and pictures; there was even a almost full-sized mock-up of the famous Poohsticks bridge that you could walk over and have your photo taken as if in a drawing, which a lot of people did.

If I had one minor gripe with the exhibition, it was that the focus was overwhelmingly on the E.H. Shepard and relatively little was said about the A.A. Milne words. It would have been good, for example, to read/hear some passages with some explanation of how they were constructed (rhythm, rhyme, etc.). That said, it was the illustrations that I had gone for and there were lots of them and they were all lovely.

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