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Writing about the death of Michael Rosen's son


André François
Quentin Blake Artist
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I went to see the agency, I think up in Southampton Row, or somewhere like that, and the person who'd commissioned François said we… he said, ah now I remember we had a drawing of him… a drawing from him, which was of a cockerel, you know, a sort of French rooster, you know, which he'd done for something, and there were one or two slight changes that we sent it back, asking for these changes, and we were terribly worried about the deadline, and it was coming, you know for this, and he said, 'Finally, just at the last minute it arrived'. He said, 'And I ripped off the brown paper, and it was an elephant'. Which was one… I mean, that… François wouldn't have… didn't want to change anything, he just wanted to go on creating something. And in fact I got his address, I suppose when I was in my 20s, from Russell Brockbank at Punch, and he lived outside Paris in Grisy-les-Plâtres, where he lived till the end of his life. And I went down there to see him and as a sort of pilgrimage, really. He was terribly nice, and he  collected me from the station, and was very kind of modest and self-effacing. I said, 'Have you ever had an exhibition of your work?' 'No, I haven't got enough of it, I'm afraid', he said. In fact, he became much more of a painter, and he did have exhibitions, and you know, he's had retrospectives at the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Louvre, and all that kind of thing, and you know, he was a great man. But while I was there, apparently he'd done drawing for Pirelli, who was the people he used to work for, and there was something about it they didn't like, or they wanted changed, and he had said… I mean, he was talking to his wife about it, you know, and he'd said, 'No, no, that's alright, I don't want to do it again, just send me the rejection fee', which is what you get if they don't want it, you know. And while I was there, they rang up, and said, 'Alright, we'll take it as it is'. But I mean that's a very good lesson, you know, for a for a freelance artist to hear. I mean you've got to be François to get away with it, but I mean, its strengthening, and its good to see it actually happen in front of you as it were. And… in his sitting room there was a wonderful trompe loeil drawings of shelves, with things on the shelves, which he'd done, which sort of, were very effectively trompe loeil, but didn't actually, didn't deceive you. I mean, they were three-dimensional, but you still knew they were drawing, which was very interesting. And the other thing I found rather touching, he hadn't finished it. Which you know, it was something that he was doing when he had time to do it that was fascinating. And since then, I mean I've not seen him very often, but I've seen him once or twice in London, and I was very touched, because I had an exhibition of my work in an illustration gallery in Paris, what was it, three or four years ago and he turned up. He came to the private view.

Quentin Blake, well loved British writer and illustrator, is perhaps best known for bringing Roald Dahl's characters to life with his vibrant illustrations, and for becoming the first ever UK Children's Laureate. He has also written and illustrated his own books including Mr Magnolia which won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Listeners: Ghislaine Kenyon

Ghislaine Kenyon is a freelance arts education consultant. She previously worked in gallery education including as Head of Learning at the Joint Education Department at Somerset House and Deputy Head of Education at the National Gallery’s Education Department. As well as directing the programme for schools there, she curated exhibitions such as the highly successful Tell Me a Picture with Quentin Blake, with whom she also co-curated an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2005. At the National Gallery she was responsible for many initiatives such as Take Art, a programme working with 14 London hospitals, and the national Take One Picture scheme with primary schools. She has also put on several series of exhibition-related concerts. Ghislaine writes, broadcasts and lectures on the arts, arts education and the movement for arts in health. She is also a Board Member of the Museum of Illustration, the Handel House Museum and the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Tags: Southampton Row, Punch, Paris, Grisy-les-Plâtres, Museum of Decorative Arts, Louvre, London, André François, Russell Brockbank

Duration: 3 minutes, 51 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008