A new find in old St James’s: the lovely children’s book gallery, Illustrationcupboard

St James’s is one of my favourite parts of London. I spent some very happy years working there, during which I made some great friends, and I love its history, its elderly but gracious arcades & shops and its elegant statues. It has its own unique personality – and may that never change.

I thought I knew the area pretty well, which is why stumbling across Illustrationcupboard Gallery was such an unexpected – and lovely – surprise. This is a tiny, but gorgeous, gallery/shop which represents contemporary children’s books illustrators from around the world, displaying their work and also selling signed first editions. I was lucky enough to come across it during the Gallery’s ‘Bears in Books’ exhibition (running until 11th March if you’re interested).

Who doesn’t love a bear? We humans do seem strangely preoccupied with them: bears have featured across children’s literature since time immemorial. Paddington, Rupert, Winnie, Goldilocks…all of these, and more, feature in this exhibition – particularly Paddington. For the first time, a collection of original illustrations of Paddington Bear made by Deryck Henley are on display. And they are delightful – you can’t fail to be charmed by such colourful depictions of Paddington and his adventures. There’s no doubt that the opportunity to view – and purchase – these illustrations is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (provided you have the requisite £3k or so to do so, that is).

For my part, I have to confess to being particularly smitten by Jane Hissey’s ‘Nostalgic Bears’ series, also featured in the exhibition. Her art encompasses the “traditional” type of bear – and in doing so cannot but fail to tug at your heart strings. Isn’t her ‘Wet Bear’, below, wonderful?

Wet Bear - Jane Hissey

Bears aside, the remainder of the Gallery is a veritable treasure trove. Featuring illustrations of, among others, Alice in Wonderland, Where the Wild Things Are, The Snow Queen, Mr Benn and Danger Mouse (Danger Mouse! How I loved him and his trusty sidekick Penfold, growing up), Illustrationcupboard is small but perfectly formed. This was the happiest half an hour I’ve whiled away in quite some time.

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