The Italian Almanac

an illustration by Quentin Blake

Quentin Blake

Rome is hosting Quentin Blake's first ever solo exhibition in Italy, showcasing over 100 works by the British artist whose quirky illustrations have mesmerised generations of children around the world. The exhibit at the Casina di Raffaello in Rome's Villa Borghese park highlights the 77-year-old's long career, during which he has illustrated over 300 books translated into countless languages.

Blake is best known for bringing to life the anarchic characters of British author Roald Dahl such as chocolate factory owner Willy Wonka and the Big Friendly Giant, and his scratchy heroes and heroines, droopy-nosed dogs and bizarre-looking birds are instantly recognisable. "Quentin Blake can rightly be considered one of the most famous living illustrators," said Italian art historian Matteo Fochessati, who has contributed to a catalogue accompanying the show. "This is an important exhibition that brings together a large corpus of his work for the first time in Italy", Fochessati added.

Blake produces his trademark scribbly creations by first drawing quickly in ink and then applying watercolour paint, and he admits that he doesn't worry too much about the paint going outside the lines. "I think it gives the idea of something happening," Blake has said. "I tend to do everything fast". Blake's ties with Italy feature in a section of the show, which includes work he has done for the books of Sardinian children's author Bianca Pitzorno. "Her stories present elements both of everyday life and extraordinary fantasy," said Blake, who won the highest international recognition for creators of children's books, the Hans Christian Andersen Award, in 2002.

The exhibition also highlights drawings for large-scale murals done by Blake in recent years to cheer up hospital waiting rooms, including several adult and children hospitals in London and the Trousseau Children's Hospital in Paris.