John Burningham exhibition at Mottisfont estate near

John Burningham exhibition at Mottisfont estate near Romsey

This summer, the National Trust’s Mottisfont estate, near Romsey, celebrates the wild and wonderful world of award-winning children’s author and illustrator John Burningham with a family-friendly exhibition and activity trail.

John Burningham’s Bedtime Stories (open from July 20 until September 29) will feature more than 60 original illustrations in a fun, immersive exhibition in the sunny top-floor gallery of the former medieval priory.

One of Burningham’s illustrations (Image: John Burningham)

Some of the artwork on show has never been shown publicly before, including illustrations from one of Burningham’s final published books, Mr Gumpy’s Rhino.

Burningham, whose books have delighted children across the world for five decades, was known especially for the wit and humour in his storytelling and artwork.

Themed rooms in Mottisfont’s gallery focus on a number of these stories, immersing families in favourite tales such as the Mr Gumpy series, Avocado Baby (about a super strong baby based on his daughter Emily’s love of avocados), Oi! Get Off Our Train!, and Borka, The Adventures of a Goose with No Feathers – Burningham’s first picture book, for which he won the Kate Greenaway Award in 1963.

An illustration by John Burningham (Image: John Burningham)

Within the playful gallery areas are comfy reading zones for kids to snuggle into with a book, colourful blown-up scenes for family photos, and dressing up inspiration.

A life-size ‘magic’ bed will transport young imaginations to far away worlds, inspired by Burningham’s classic story The Magic Bed.

John Burningham won numerous awards and created over 50 children’s books throughout his 60-year career.

He paired eccentric stories with bold illustrations, full of colour and energy. Animals cross into human worlds, and madcap adventures are described as a matter of fact – appealing to the wild imaginations of childhood.

Another of Burnigham’s drawings (Image: John Burningham)

Burningham has been described as one of the great masters of the art of picture-book making, with a fearless, painterly approach to media – he applied car paint spray and boot polish to his Borka artworks – that put him at the forefront of a new and vibrant era of picture books in the 1960s.

His wife and fellow illustrator Helen Oxenbury described his art style as “’everything but the kitchen sink’”, incorporating “sprays, glues, inks, pigments and I would sometimes be asked for some flour.”.

As part of Mottisfont’s exhibition, sketches, annotated works, blotter pads and other personal items, including the artist’s paint palette and brushes, reveal how John Burningham created his much-loved stories.

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