My sister and I were lucky as children that we always had books; before we could even hold one we had soft cloth books with picture and a few words. I still have some of my books from when I was very young, ‘Kittens and Puppies’ is one. As well as the words and the story we loved the pictures; these days there are images everywhere, but in those days there were a few black and white photos and cartoons in newspapers, black and white illustrations in magazines, and out books. We didn’t have that many either, not until we went to school and to the library. Every book we had was read and reread, dozens, no, hundreds of times, and the pictures pored over. I can remember certain images so clearly
When I had children of my own there was a huge choice of different books, all beautifully illustrated, and possibly I enjoyed the illustrations more than they did! Illustrations are an integral part of these books but often the illustrators are forgotten. There are the exceptions like E.H.Shepherd and Quentin Blake, of course.
One great illustrator whose work is instantly recognisable is Victor Ambrus who, I think you could say, came to a much wider public attention through his work on the TV programme, Time Team. It was a very popular archaeology programme which ran for many years – and no-one seems to know exactly why it didn’t continue. There was a team of archaeologists who had three days to do a dig, and while they worked, so did Victor, bringing to life the past that was being uncovered with his fabulous drawings, paintings and illustrations.
Victor was born in 1935 in Hungary, but escaped at the age of twenty-one when there was a revolution against the Soviet backed government. He eventually ended up in Britain and has lived here ever since. By 1965 he was awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway medal for British children’s book illustration – which he actually received again in 1975. Victor has illustrated over 300 books of all sorts, and has also designed cards, stamps, displays…
You only have a week left, but Victor’s work is on display in the museum at Taunton:
You can visit Victor’s site here: