One of my most prized books is my copy of “The Ladybird Book of The Weather”, purchased on 21st November 1970 for 2/6d. I know this because my mum has carefully inked most of this information into the frontispiece. From this much loved book I learnt how to use the Beaufort scale, the inner secrets of a Stevenson Screen and many other marvellous weather related facts besides.
So how exciting was it to discover an exhibition, currently on at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, featuring many original artworks from what is probably the golden age of Ladybird, between the late 50’s and 70’s. In fact – my Ladybird reading era.
Fortunately, the day I chose to travel down to the coat was the sunniest day this week – a perfect day to be beside the seaside. Bexhill itself seems to be made up of quite a few charity shops, but the Pavilion is definitely worth a visit. Standing on the seafront in full sunshine the building positively glows. The result of a national architectural competition, the Pavilion was opened in 1935. It has had many uses over the decades, but was extensively restored and regenerated in 2005 as a contemporary art gallery.
The exhibition of Ladybird art works was fascinating. First produced in an era of paper rationing, they were cleverly designed to fit precisely on one sheet of paper when printed. Aimed primarily at educating and informing children and their parents, many skilled and talented commercial artists were commissioned to create the images which fill their 24 picture pages. The focus on good design and detail in the illustrations was very important to the overall look of the books and I would argue that this was a significant factor in their success.
As I walked around the exhibits, there was a very strong sense of being “at home” . These books formed such a large part of my childhood and being amongst them brought a sense of comfort and well-being that was hard to explain. They do reflect a world that is very different to today; one that was measured and orderly, where gender roles were more precise and where the society they depicted reflected the British sense of Empire and it’s place in the social order. Yet the quality of the artists work is hard to fault.
The exhibition video is worth a watch and explores this in more detail.
More of the glorious images on display in the exhibition can be found here.
The exhibition runs from Sat 24 Jan 2015- Sun 10 May 2015 and best of all, it’s free!
©Chez l’abeille 2015