Saturday 12 July 2014

Bob Graham: A Retrospective

During a recent trip to Canberra I had the opportunity to attend the Bob Graham exhibition, A Bird in the Hand!
at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery in Civic. 

Graham started with a timeline of important life events.
 He also provided a wonderful glimpse into his working world.

I love the photograph of Graham outside his window and all the toy pups around his desk.
It was also very generous of Graham to let us sneak a peek at his latest work in progress - Ice Cream.

Three of Graham's CBCA medals.
The wall was dotted with quotes and comments from Graham about his work and ideas.

"It was not until I survived the diabolical lottery, and missed the draft to Vietnam, that I started to question the concept of social justice. And to think that it might depend which side of the fence you were on. And to question how the stories we read when we are young might just influence our outlook on life."

Pete & Roland was based on a real life family story.

"As well as cosy home grown certainties...through books, children can imagine what it might be like to be in someone else's shoes. This is surely where empathy starts...and who knows? Then maybe they may have a world with some fear taken out of it."

"I made Greetings From Sandy Beach after a trip to Wilson's Prom where Carolyn and I sat on a lonely beach imagining we could have been the only people on earth and a whole class of school kids dropped out of the sky on us followed by a very apologetic teacher."

 "Up until Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten I had my feet firmly planted on the ground in a reality which echoed my own. When Rose and her family appeared, the story needed them to be watching the sun coming up. My editor in London went for caution when she saw my rough sketches. 'Wouldn't they be safer and better off watching the sunrise from their front step?' she asked.

Sometimes you have to go for it. I not only put the family on the roof (it made a much better picture) but I put a sheep up there for good measure...Suddenly I thought my stories could go anywhere."

"In 1994 we moved to Somerset. We lived in an old stone house built in 1690. It had a door, 4 windows in front and a chimney with smoke coming out, and flowers on the windowsill. Just like a house that children would draw. These houses were perfect for Queenie the Bantam."

 I loved seeing the original drawing of the dapper duck that Graham's granddaughter drew that inspired Silver Buttons.

"Way beyond any awards or achievements that my books have been fortunate to receive was when I was told that my book How To heal A Broken Wing was to be published in Hebrew (Israel), and Farsi (Iran, I think in the same year. I can't think of anything more fulfilling that has happened to me in my publishing life. Iran saw fit to lengthen the skirts, but if they needed to do that then it was OK. It didn't alter the story."

Before Graham was a well-renown author and illustrator of children's books, he illustrated a book with his brother-in-law, Peter Smith. 
It was never published...until 2012.

The exhibition showed the original and current editions of Monsieur Albert Rides To Glory.
It was fascinating seeing how Graham's illustrations evolved with time. 
The book also changed from one with rather adult leanings to a more child friendly version.

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey into Graham's world. 
Like his books, I was left with a feeling of inclusion; I felt embraced, respected & cosy. 
There is a warmth and humanity that not only emanates from Graham's work, but from his life story as well. 

You have until August 24 to see this heart-warming exhibition at the Canberra Museum and Art Gallery.


  1. What a great opportunity and such fun illustrations.

  2. What a wonderful exhibition. Loved the drawings of all the people. Thanks so much for sharing this. Wish we would get this display in Tassie's museum and art gallery.

  3. Anonymous13/7/14

    I found Bob Graham's book here in Dutch! What a great illustrator. I just re-read Stuart Little and was amazed how many memories the illustrations in the book brought back! As Francophile I'd love to read: Monsieur Albert Rides To Glory! Great review,,,,I can look at the pictures for hours!

    1. That is the beauty of Bob Graham Nancy. His illustrations are deceptively simple - it's easy to spend hours pouring over them!

  4. I've been meaning to blog about this exhibition since I saw it in May, but I haven't got to doing it yet…. It was amazing wasn't it? It really helped me appreciate Bob Graham's work even more. I loved the recreated studio.

    1. Yes the exhibition made me an even bigger fan of Bob Graham's than I already was!
      His work studio was a great inclusion - I particularly enjoyed seeing proofs of his soon to be released book on the table too :-)


This blog has now moved to Wordpress.
Please visit This Reading Life to comment.

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.