STEP into the wonderful world of a boy and his best friend – a bear – this summer in Hampshire.
Christopher Robin, Winnie-the-Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood are being celebrated at the idyllic setting of National Trust property Mottisfont.
There will be 36 hand-painted illustrations by E.H. Shepard on show, created for the books Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner.
Some of these works have never been seen before, and none of them have ever been on show in the UK.
Each artwork is instantly recognisable, featuring Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger, among other characters beloved by generations of children and adults, all based on the nursery toys that belonged to author AA Milne’s son, Christopher Robin.
Five brand new images of Pooh and his friends, drawn by Mark Burgess, illustrator of Return to Hundred Acre Wood will also be on display. The illustrations celebrate the launch of a Winnie-the-Pooh app, available free at the Apple app store.
Winnie-the-Pooh first appeared in Milne’s hugely successful poetry collection When We Were Very Young (1924). He then expanded on this in a bedtime story he made up for his son about adventures with his teddy bear, published in the Evening News in 1925 and in a new book Winnie-the-Pooh the following year. It was an instant hit, beloved by adults as well as children.
Milne said he didn’t write the stories for children, but instead for the child within every adult.
He was introduced to the illustrator E.H. Shepard by the editor of Punch magazine. At first Milne was not keen, but the response to Shepard’s pictures was so positive that he was asked to illustrate all of the Pooh books. Author and artist were never close, despite their highly productive working relationship.
Shepard famously came to resent the way that these drawings overshadowed his other more political work, referring to Pooh rather grumpily as ‘that silly old bear’.
His illustrations have however continued to delight generations of readers. They were inspired by a real teddy bear, but not the actual Winnie-the-Pooh owned by Christopher Robin.
Instead, Shepard modelled his Pooh on Growler, a bear belonging to his own son Graham.
For many years, the books were published with black and white reproductions of the pen and ink drawings that Shepard initially made.
In 1970, Shepard was asked by the publishers if he would create colour illustrations for a new edition. They prepared a special set of prints of his line illustrations on art paper, which Shepard then reworked by hand using watercolour.
It is these unique and rarely exhibited hand-coloured illustrations that are on show here, on loan from the Estate of E.H. Shepard and Egmont UK Ltd.
This was a major project undertaken just a few years before Shepard died, revisiting characters he had initially imagined 40 years ago, and bringing them to life again with careful strokes of his brush.
Visitors can also see several of Shepard’s initial – drawings and A.A. Milne first editions on loan from Jonkers Rare Books.
The exhibition also showcases some beautiful hand-crafted toys: from stunning kites made from leaf skeletons and pressed flower petals, to wonderful automated toys – all fun and accessible to young visitors.
Children can also experience Pooh-inspired forest escapades for themselves, when they embark on Winniethe- Pooh’s Great ‘Expotition’ at Mottisfont – a family quest trail packed with nature-led tasks and creative fun.
The trail will see families racing Poohsticks along the River Test, tree climbing and tracking a Woozle, building a house of sticks just like Eeyore’s, designing a trap for any unexpected Heffalumps, and in true Pooh style making up songs and creating stories.
A special Winnie-the-Pooh pop up shop is stocking a full range of books, prints, soft toys, mugs and more.
Louise Govier from Mottisfont said: “The illustrations are just gorgeous: each one is a classic image, and you feel you know them so well.
“They take you right back to your childhood, and conjure up long days outdoors and time spent playing with friends.”
- The exhibition runs until September 15.
- Find out more at nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont/things-tosee- and-do/events/