The wonderful world of Axel Scheffler

THE summer exhibition at the Museum of Somerset at Taunton Castle until 28th August celebratess the work of Axel Scheffler, the UK’s number one illustrator, best known for his long partnership with children’s writer Julia Donaldson.

With more than 150 books featuring his work, Axel has created some of the most instantly recognisable characters in children’s books – from The Gruffalo to Stick Man and beyond. The family-friendly exhibition coincides with the 30th anniversary of his working relationship with Julia Donaldson.

Axel Scheffler: A Life in Illustration will feature artwork from across his prolific career. His unmistakable style, with its luminous colour, expressive faces, and humour, can be found in more than 150 books.

The exhibition highlights his creative process, featuring sketches and preparatory drawings to show how his characters develop and come to life on the page. Work on display ranges from his time spent studying at Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, to recent books including Jim’s Spectacular Christmas, written by the actress Emma Thompson. Visitors will encounter artwork that hasn’t been seen elsewhere, including editorial drawings from early in his career, and imagery from the first books that he worked on.

Fifteen of the books created by Julia and Axel are featured, including their very first book, A Squash and a Squeeze. Visitors will see original artwork for illustrations from The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, Stick Man, and the Pip and Posy series. Many of Axel and Julia’s books, including Zog, The Snail and the Whale and The Smeds and the Smoos, have been adapted into award-winning animations by Magic Light Pictures.

Axel said: “I spent an unforgettable summer holiday in North Devon in 1975 and fell in love with South West England. I came back in 1982 to study visual communication at Bath Academy of Art in Corsham. I’m very pleased to have my most comprehensive exhibition of my published and unpublished work in the UK so far at the Museum of Somerset.”

The museum’s exhibitions manager Sarah Cox says: “Axel’s books have been published in many languages and his work has been seen all around the world. Visitors to the exhibition can discover his journey to becoming the UK’s most popular illustrator and witness the creation of these modern classics. We’re excited to be launching the exhibition in the 30th anniversary year of Axel and Julia’s wonderful creative partnership.”

The exhibition has been created in partnership with Events of Wonder with support from the publishers Macmillan Children’s Books and Scholastic Children’s Books. Each week during the summer holidays families will be able to explore a different book as the museum welcomes some unusual visitors including farm animals (A Squash and a Squeeze) and fire breathers (Zog).

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