Out of a cardboard box on the exhibition poster which heralds Christmas and welcomes visitors at the gates guarding the soothing lawns of the Dulwich Picture Gallery springs a typically Quentin Blake ensemble. There are two children, three dotty adults, one of them wearing ‘specs’, and a big dog. At the top of the poster, a parrot and a bigger bird, probably a heron, both clasp some jolly red and green holly in their beaks. Once in the Gallery itself, it emerges that ‘Up With Birds!’ is the theme of the first room of this exhibition — the first of five such themes. Should a young illustrator wish to make a cockatoo look indignant, for the sake of argument, then Quentin Blake would surely be a mentor to study.
‘I have been interested in birds since I was at school,’ the artist writes in the catalogue, referring presumably to the feathered variety, and adding, ‘When I draw birds, however, it is not so much the characteristics of a species that takes me as much as general birdness — stance, poise, gait and glance, and the pointedness of their beaks.