Lots Road Group: The Art of Reading exhibition

Waterstones Gower Street (New in-store gallery):

82 Gower St, London WC1E 6EQ (Closest tube: Goodge Street)

Thursday 3 to Sunday 30 November 2016

Exhibition catalogue: The Art of Reading Price £17.59

The Lots Road Group, in association with BookTrust – Britain’s largest reading charity - is celebrating Children’s Book Week with a portrait exhibition The Art of Reading at Waterstones’ first dedicated gallery space in its flagship academic bookstore in Bloomsbury.

  1. The portraits are of people spanning different categories of the written word.  They include children’s authors such as Michael Bond, creator of Paddington Bear, and Julian Warrender, teen authors Natasha Farrant and Philip Womack, and novelist and poet Julia Bell.  It also portrays academics in the field of literature, such as literary critic Professor Dame Gillian Beer as well as literary agent of the Year 2014 Caroline Dawnay, as well as relatives and friends of the artists.  There’s even a portrait of an unknown sitter on instagram!   

Accompanying words, taken from the catalogue, provide a fascinating insight into the reading habits of those portrayed – from those who prefer the “tactile” rather than the electronic experience of reading physical books – including braille. Many reveal their ‘Desert Island’ reads, from the practical (a book on boat building: Michael Bond) and the all encompassing (Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale: Dame Gllian Beer; Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’: Natasha Farrant) to the hopeful (Julie Donaldson, author of ‘The Gruffalo, who chose, ‘Poem for the day one’, “This book contains 365 poems.  I’d try to learn one a day until I was rescued.”

The Art of Reading by the Lots Road Group catalogue cover.

In addition, Michael Bond, portrayed with the artist Hero Johnson’s childhood copy of his book ‘The tales of Olga da Polga’, revealed that he still has the eponymous guinea pig’s successors! And, referencing A A Milne’s most famous creation, ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, Artist Sarah Reynolds posed her granddaughter lying down under a tree with one leg in the air, just like a famous illustration of Christopher Robin by E.H. Shepard, who, like the Lots Road Group, studied at The Heatherley School of Fine Art in Lots Road, Chelsea.

Hilary Puxley, leading this year’s exhibition for the Lots Road Group, said, “This is the third Lots Road Group annual exhibition and this year we’ve taken the idea of the sitter reading - a perennial theme throughout the history of portraiture – as our subject . Our exhibition brings the theme up-to-date, giving an insight into the ways in which people of all ages derive pleasure from reading now.  

Heatherley’s is one of the oldest independent art colleges in London and one of the few in Britain that focuses purely on portraiture, figurative painting and sculpture.  The 15 portraits, executed in oils, featured in the exhibition, show the acute powers of observation and attention to detail the institution, now in its 176th year, instilled into the Lots Road Group.

Children’s Book Week runs from 31 October to 6 November 2016 and aims to celebrate reading for pleasure.  By designating a special day or week for book-related activities, schools and libraries can help children to see reading as pleasurable and fun, stimulating them to discover new books, extend their reading choices, discuss and share books, explore libraries and bookshops, and do their own creative writing.  BookTrust works to inspire a love of reading in children because reading can transform lives. They give out over 2 million carefully chosen books to children throughout the UK. Every parent receives a BookTrust book in the baby’s first six months. Their books, guidance and resources are delivered via health, library, schools and early years practitioners, and are supported with advice and resources to encourage the reading habit. Reading for pleasure has a dramatic impact on educational outcomes, well-being and social mobility, and is also a huge pleasure in itself. BookTrust are committed to starting children on their reading journey and supporting them throughout

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