The UK’s largest exhibition devoted to Winnie-the-Pooh for 40 years is to launch this weekend aiming to inspire children to “write their own stories or draw their own pictures”.
Original drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh are displayed for the first time at the V&A Museum in London along with a section on the ‘The Art of Narrative’ exploring the “thrilling interplay between text and image”.
"Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic," which opens on Saturday (9th December), also provides “glimpses of the imagined world” from author A A Milne and illustrator E H Shepard, according to curator Annemarie Bilclough. Meanwhile, the show's co-curator Emma Laws has described how it sequentially takes “visitors from the real world of ‘The Nursery’ and ‘The Studio’ to... the imagined space of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends and the adventures that they have here.”
She told assembled press at the preview on Monday (4th December) that the exhibition, which features interactive elements and audio, is intended to be an “inspiring place” for young people. She said: “This is the first V&A exhibition at south Kensington specifically for younger families so this is a fun, multi-sensory space.
“One of the things we wanted to do was inspire children to become enthused about storytelling, as well as Winnie-the-Pooh, [and] feel inspired to write their own stories or draw their own pictures.”
The ‘Art of Narrative’ section provides an insight into “how all this magic gets created” and features the “thrilling interplay between text and image” including some of Milne’s manuscripts.
Laws said: “What’s so important about the manuscript is seeing Milne’s early ideas for the story and you can see his playfulness, you can see the words jumping on the page as Tigger is jumping up and down in Kanga’s pocket so ideas like that were there from the very outset.”
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 are both featured along with 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.
Laws praised Shepard’s “genius at visual storytelling, his ability to tell a story through a picture… the way that he interprets text ironically, his characterisation, the way he can paint a picture of a character in just a few lines”.
Other highlights among the 90 drawings displayed are two lent privately, bought together side-by-side for the first time: the pencil and pen-and-ink versions of one of the characters playing the famous game of ‘Pooh sticks’.
The exhibition which was first announced in September, features 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.
A Christopher Robin nursery tea set from the Royal Collection which was presented to the Queen in 1928, aged two, is also featured along with various recordings such as a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh, in a typically “deadpan” way according to Bilclough.
The final section, ‘Pooh Goes to Print’ explains the printing process, a touch-screen presentation showing the history of the characters in newspapers, print and books.
Tom Piper, the designer of the field of poppies artwork "Wave and Weeping Window",worked with RFK architects on the show’s design.
Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: "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."
"Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic" will take place in the V&A’s Gallery 38 from 9th December 2017 until 8th April 2018.
All photos: © Victoria and Albert Museum