London’s V&A Museum presents Winnie-the-Pooh Exploring a Classic. Original drawings, manuscripts, proofs and books explore the unique relationship between author A. A. Milne (1882-1956) and illustrator Ernest Howard Shepard, MC OBE (1879-1976).

So, what is about bears?  Warm, cuddly and comforting, we loved them as children and we still love them now.

In particular, we’ve loved Winnie for over 90 years. Winnie-the-Pooh Exploring a Classic shows how he and his lovable friends have become part of our collective imagination. A. A. Milne’s original stories are a firmly established part of global popular culture. We find Pooh and his friends in Walt Disney animations, ceramics, art and fashion, and even in philosophy and politics.

The lessons we learn from this cuddly bear’s attitude to friendships have stood the test of time. The exhibition, designed with families in mind, explores A. A. Milne’s real-life inspirations such as his own son Christopher and his childhood toys as well as drawings of Ashdown Forest that provide the setting for Owl’s and Piglet’s houses in E. H. Shepard’s illustrations.

Warm, Comfy, Comforting Bears

Warm, Comfy, Comforting Bears
Credit: Image by Frances Spiegel, with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved. 2017

Interactive and Family Friendly

V&A curators, Emma Laws and Annemarie Bilclough, have drawn upon the museum’s own comprehensive collection of Shepard’s pencil drawings to bring Pooh’s world to life. The display is supplemented by additional loans from The Walt Disney Company; The Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge; Egmont Publishing; The Shepard Trust and The University of Surrey. Visitors will also enjoy video and audio clips including a 1929 recording of Milne reading one of the stories. 

The exhibition showcases the largest ever group of prints and drawings together with an immersive family section.

Visitors are invited to explore scenes from some of the most well-known adventures such as Poohsticks Bridge, the Bee Tree and Eeyore’s house. Interactive activities, including dressing up areas, storytelling trees, and a ‘picnic’ drawing table, encourage younger visitors to engage. 

Pooh's Friends
Credit: Image by Frances Spiegel, with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved. 2017

Simple Joys and Warm Friendships

The UK’s largest ever exhibition on Winnie-the-Pooh explores over 90 years of history of our beloved bear through more than 200 works dating from 1920 to the present day.

We begin to understand Pooh’s world – a place of simple joys and warm friendships. The show includes original illustrations, manuscripts, proofs and early editions, letters, photographs, cartoons, ceramics and fashion, all featuring the much-loved character and his friends.

Pooh's House, E H Shepard ca 1926
Credit: Image by Frances Spiegel, with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved. 2017

Milne and Shepard - A Unique Collaboration

The exhibition steps into Winnie’s unique and magical world. As they progress through the display, visitors discover the exciting relationship between Milne’s humorous use of language and Shepard’s enduring illustrations.

E. H. Shepard had an unusual knack of combining expressive lines with white space. According to Alexander Beetles, writing in The Illustrators - The British Art of Illustration 1837-2011 (page 138), the artist had “an unsurpassed genius for representing children”. The humour of his drawings expressed Milne’s texts extremely well.  

Bump, Bump, Bump. Winnie-the-Pooh, Chapter 1 Pencil Drawing by E H Shepard 2916

Bump, Bump, Bump, Winnie-the-Pooh Chapter 1, pencil drawing by E H Shepard 1926
Credit: Image by Frances Spiegel, with permission from the V&A Museum. All rights reserved. 2017

Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A

Speaking recently, Tristram Hunt, Director of the museum, said: “I’m delighted that Winnie-the-Pooh is being celebrated at the V&A, nearly 40 years since he last took centre stage at the Museum. From the world’s largest collection of E.H. Shepard’s Winnie-the-Pooh pencil drawings, to homemade honey from our rooftops in South Kensington, the V&A is the perfect home for Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Christopher Robin and friends. This is our first exhibition specifically for younger families and we look forward to welcoming another generation into A.A. Milne's magical, intimate, joyous world.”

The museum is grateful to the Unwin Charitable Trust without whose support exhibitions such as this would not be possible.

Visit the Exhibition

Winnie-the-Pooh Exploring a Classic is open until 8 April 2018. To accompany the exhibition the museum has produced a fully illustrated publication together with a varied programme of courses, talks and family events. Tickets and further information can be obtained directly from the museum.

Visit the Museum

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