Winnie-the-Pooh comes to the V&A in the UK’s largest exhibition of the bear of ‘very little brain’

'Bump, bump, bump', Winnie-the-Pooh chapter 1, pencil drawing by E. H. Shephard, 1926
'Bump, bump, bump', Winnie-the-Pooh chapter 1, pencil drawing by E. H. Shephard, 1926. Credit: The Shepard Trust, reproduced with permission from Curtis Brown

Created by A. A. Milne and drawn by E. H. Shepard, Winnie-the-Pooh is one of the best-loved characters in children’s literature. Now a major exhibition is coming to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum

He might be a bear of “very little brain” and have an insatiable appetite for honey, but there are few more lovable bears than Winnie-the-Pooh.

The bear, created by A. A. Milne after a stuffed toy owned by his son Christopher Robin, padded into literature on Christmas Eve 1925 in a story in the London newspaper, The Evening News. A book – and then more books – swiftly followed. Crucial to Winnie-the-Pooh’s popularity was his appearance: the charming illustrations of E. H. Shepard.

'The bees are getting suspicious', Winnie-the-Pooh chapter 1, pencil drawing by E. H. Shepard
‘The bees are getting suspicious’, Winnie-the-Pooh chapter 1, pencil drawing by E. H. Shepard.
Credit: The Shepard Trust, reproduced with permission from Curtis Brown

Original drawings of Winnie-the-Pooh will be shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum for the first time in almost 40 years as part of the UK’s largest ever exhibition on the bear, his creator and his illustrator. Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, which opens in December, will uncover the real inspirations – the people and the animals – behind the fluffy creature. How did the rotund bear get his name? Why was a swan involved? And how did Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Piglet, Rabbit and Tigger come about?

Christopher Robin ceramic tea-set presented to Princess Elizabeth, hand- painted, Ashtead Pottery, 1928 Photograph: Royal Collection Trust
Christopher Robin ceramic tea-set presented to Princess Elizabeth, hand- painted, Ashtead Pottery, 1928 Photograph: Royal Collection Trust. Credit: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The exhibition features about 230 works from 1920 to today including A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh manuscript and pages from the manuscript of House at Pooh Corner from the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge; E. H. Shepard’s first Winnie-the-Pooh portraits, made from copying A. A. Milne’s son Christopher’s toys; and a Christopher Robin nursery set given to Princess Elizabeth in 1928. There will also be a 1929 recording of Milne reading Winnie-the-Pooh.

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic runs at the Victoria and Albert Museum from December 9 to 8 April. With support from the Unwin Charitable Trust

Explore the Winnie-the-Pooh trail in Ashdown Forest, Sussex and read more about Pooh in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Britain

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