Original Winnie the Pooh drawings will be on show at the V&A for the first time in almost 40 years as part of the UK’s largest exhibition on the classic children's character created by author A A Milne and illustrator E H Shepard.
"Winnie the Pooh: Exploring a Classic" promises to be a “multi-sensory, playful exhibition that will explore the magical world” exploring 90 years of history of “one of the most adored fictional characters of all time”.
The exhibition in London's South Kensington, which opens in December and runs until April, will look at Milne’s storytelling and use of language and at how Shepard produced illustrations “combining expressive line with white space and an understated humour matching that of Milne”.
The show “specifically for younger families” will feature 230 works from 1920 to the present day from the archives of Egmont, the V&A itself, the Walt Disney Company, the Shepard Trust and the University of Surrey. Artefacts will include original illustrations, manuscripts, proofs and early editions, letters, photographs, cartoons, ceramics and fashion.
For the first time, the pencil sketch and pen and ink drawing of the celebrated ‘Poohsticks’ illustration featuring Winnie the Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin will go on display with international collectors lending the two works for the exhibition.
'The bees are getting suspicious', Winnie-the-Pooh chapter one, pencil drawing by E. H. Shepard
Other exhibition highlights will include Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh manuscript (originally published by Methuen & Co in London in 1926) and pages from the manuscript of House at Pooh Corner from Trinity College, Cambridge, as well as Shepard’s first Winnie-the-Pooh character portraits, made by copying Milne’s son Christopher’s real toys, and original sketches of the forest landscape. The Queen has lent a Christopher Robin nursery tea set from the Royal Collection which was presented to her in 1928, aged two, and there will be video and audio clips, such as a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie the Pooh.
The exhibition will consider the “real people, relationships and inspirations behind the charismatic bear” as visitors learn about the “thrilling interplay between text and illustration, shedding new light on the creative collaboration between Milne and Shepard”. Tom Piper, the designer of the field of poppies artwork "Wave and Weeping Window", has worked with RFK architects on the show’s design to include a “large-scale, immersive family section reimagining scenes from the most famous stories”.
Children will have the opportunity to take part in art and word play with dressing up areas, storytelling trees and a ‘picnic’ drawing table with "motifs" arranged around around the exhibition through 3-D poetry and mobiles.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: “I’m delighted that Winnie the Pooh is being celebrated at the V&A, nearly 40 years since he last took centre stage at the museum.
“From the world’s largest collection of E H Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh pencil drawings, to homemade honey from our rooftops in South Kensington, the V&A is the perfect home for Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Christopher Robin and friends.”
He added: “This is our first exhibition specifically for younger families and we look forward to welcoming another generation into A A Milne's magical, intimate, joyous world.”
'Bump, bump, bump', Winnie-the-Pooh chapter one, pencil drawing by E.H. Shephard, 1926.
The V&A’s last Winnie the Pooh exhibition took place between 1969 and 1970 before it went on tour. A spokesperson said: “This exhibition presents the illustrations in a different way with a family audience in mind, inviting children to take a closer look at them.”
In July, it was revealed that the bear was allegedly being censored on social media in China after comparisons were drawn between the character and President Xi Jinping.
Next month, Fox Searchlight Pictures' "Goodbye Christopher Robin", will be released, focusing on the Milne's relationship with his son and the success of the books following the First World War with the author played by Domhnall Gleeson.
The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green will host a complementary display of teddy bears to coincide with the exhibition.
"Winnie the Pooh: Exploring a Classic" will take place in the V&A’s Gallery 38 from 9the December 2017 until 8th April 2018.
An illustrated book featuring previously unseen sketches by Shepard, as well as correspondence between him and Milne, was revealed in July and will be published on Thursday (7th September). The Art of Winnie the Pooh, published by LOM Art and draws on the collaboration between the author and illustrator. The author, James Campbell, is married to Shepard's great-granddaughter and has had responsibility for the oversight of the illustrator's artistic and literary estate since 2010.
For more information, visit the V&A website.
Pictures: © The Shepard Trust, reproduced with permission from Curtis Brown