Born in London in 1932, British cartoonist, illustrator and author, Sir Quentin Blake is most notably famed for his illustrations for the legendary children’s novels by Roald Dahl. Encouraged at school by cartoonist Alfred Johnson, Blake received his first publication in The Punch at the age of just 16. Blake went on to study English Literature at the University of Cambridge, though the artist has since stated that the degree did not contribute to either his artistic or creative talent. Blake also went on to study at both Chelsea School of Art and Camberwell School of Art, and later in his artistic career was awarded the biennial International Hans Christian Anderson award (2002); the highest recognition available for creators of Children’s books.
In 2012, having been invited by Marlborough to produce a set of etchings and lithographs, Blake jumped at the opportunity despite the fact that -, and perhaps partly because - these were unfamiliar mediums to the artist. Blake created two sets of etchings with aquatint depicting enigmatic women and humanoid insects, as well as lithographs of girls and dogs. The two series titled Companions and Characters in Search of a Story, depicted mythicised renditions of age and youth or vibrantly colored, metamorphic women floating in water. These series were significant as they portrayed a break from Blake’s previous illustrations that followed a narrative text. Instead, both Companions and Characters in Search of a Story encourage the viewer to provide their own narration of the work.
The joyful air imparted in Blake’s illustrations, is inherent not only in his stylistic approach to his subjects, but also in his chosen medium. In selecting tools such as quill pens and bamboo sticks to apply water-color, Blake supplies fluidity and liberal movements to his characters. Similar to the color that seeps over the line, his mystical characters defy convention both in their subject and aesthetic. Embodied with a sense of freedom that characterises the spirit of childhood, Blake’s working technique and subjects are unified through his focus on liberty.
Blake’s books have won numerous prizes and awards, including the Whitbread Award, the Kate Greenaway Medal, the Emil/Kurt Maschler Award and the international Bologna Ragazzi Prize. Since the 1990s, Quentin Blake has had an additional career as exhibition curator, curating shows in, among other places, the National Gallery, the British Library and the Musée du Petit Palais in Paris. With his unique sensitivity and off-beat humour, Blake has been commissioned to provide large-scale works for hospitals and health centres in both the UK and France. Blake was the inaugural British Children's Laureate 1999–2001 and 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. Blake has also been awarded numerous honorary degrees from universities throughout the UK. He received a knighthood for 'services to illustration' in the New Year's Honors for 2013, and became an Honorary Freeman of the City of London in 2015. He lives and works in the United Kingdom and France.