Quentin Blake’s Illustrations Brought Colorful Characters to Life in Recent Christie’s Auction

Deepa Shrestha
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Quentin Blake, Alternative detail for South Ken Kids Festival banner, 2014. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

An introduction of Quentin Saxby Blake would be incomplete without talking about Roald Dahl, the British author who gave the world Willy Wonka, the Witches, and Matilda. Dahl’s books are mainly geared toward children, including James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And although Dahl’s words described the characters well, it was the illustrations by Quentin Blake that brought these characters to life!

Thanks to Quentin Blake, Dahl’s characters leaped off the pages of Dahl’s books and into the reader’s imagination. His colorful and unusual illustrations have captivated the hearts of so many children who grew up seeing them. Blake has also collaborated with his lifelong friend John Yeoman to produce The Bear’s Winter House, an acclaimed full-color picture book. This December, Christie’s presented new drawings by Blake with recognizable themes. The timed London auction totaled GBP 364,875 (USD 482,850).

Quentin Blake, Bird companions #15, 2021. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Bird Companions #15

An animal much loved and repeated in Quentin Blake’s illustrations is the bird. Blake has even drawn birds as people. In the recent Christie’s auction, a series of bird drawings were available. Among the top lots from this section of the sale was Bird companions #15. Blake drew this pen, ink, and watercolor piece in 2021. Warm shades of green and orange brighten the drawing. Black lines outline a large bird companion carrying a person through shallow water. This drawing sold for GBP 4,000 (USD 5,300).

Quentin Blake, Sunshine Travellers alternative version, 2020. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Sunshine Travellers 

The next illustration by Blake shows a tall figure pushing a young boy in a wheeled chair under a blazing yellow sun. The young boy appears to be content, resting far from the pond water and sheltered from the heat by a miniature umbrella. The sun with its bright yellow color also demands attention. Blake created this pen, ink, and watercolor on paper piece during lockdown in 2020. Estimated to sell between GBP 800 and £1,200 (USD 1,060 – $1,600), Sunshine Travellers alternate version achieved £2,750 (USD 3,640).

Quentin Blake, Alternative for Foundling Museum Christmas card, 2020. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Alternative for Foundling Museum Christmas Card

Another notable lot from this auction was the alternate cover of a holiday card for the Foundling Museum. In the illustration, a dog dons a red scarf and carries a twig in its mouth. It happily descends a snow-capped mountain slope. There are more snow covered trees and mountains in the background. Quentin Blake completed this pen, ink, and watercolor on paper piece in 2020. It realized GBP 2,750 (USD 3,640).

Quentin Blake, Three Vultures, undated. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

Three Vultures 

As is evident in works like The Weed, Quentin Blake is a nature lover, and its conservation is important to him. The illustrations in this auction, such as bird companions, fishes, and Three Vultures (GBP 2,000 / USD 2,650), stand as a testament to that love. The sale of these works benefited Greenpeace, a non-profit organization that campaigns to protect the natural world from destructive fishing, deforestation, and the climate crisis.

Describing these illustrations before the auction, Blake said, “My last auction at Christie’s was made up of alternative versions of drawings that had been commissioned from me. There are one or two such items in the present collection, but in most respects it could hardly be more different. The great majority of these came into being of their own urgency, although if you are familiar with my work you will recognise certain familiar themes.” 

All the illustrations sold in this auction benefited charities that Blake supports. These included the House of Illustration, the world’s largest public arts space dedicated to illustration, which is scheduled to open in 2022. Proceeds also went to Greenpeace and Downing College, Cambridge, which Quentin attended in the 1950s. Visit Christie’s for the complete auction results and further information.

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Deepa Shrestha
Deepa Shrestha
Senior Writer and Editor

Deepa Shrestha is a writer at Auction Daily whose favorite lots range from murals to postcards. She earned her MBA in entrepreneurship and also has a background in sociology and photography. That includes five years as a photojournalist for Thomson Reuters.

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