Coralie Bickford-Smith: The Fox and the Star

William Morris Gallery

9 November 2016 – 29 January 2017

Admission Free

Coralie Bickford-Smith In Conversation: Thursday 26 January, 19:00 – 20:30

The Fox and the Star at London's The William Morris Gallery
The Fox and the Star at London’s The William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is pleased to announce an exhibition of The Fox and the Star, by award-winning illustrator and author Coralie Bickford-Smith. The exhibition will be a rare and exciting opportunity to see how the best-selling book was conceived and produced, with original illustrations, proofs and sketches on display for the first time. It will explore the relationship between the book and William Morris’s renowned Kelmscott Press, a key influence for Bickford-Smith.

The Fox and the Star rose to prominence when it was named Waterstones Book of the Year in 2015, and is widely regarded as one of the most intricate and exquisitely illustrated children’s books of all time. Resonating with both children and adults, the story is a beautifully crafted tale of loss, friendship and discovery that harks back to the visual language of William Morris and William Blake.

The exhibition will chart the development of Bickford-Smith’s initial designs, beginning with early pencil storyboards and culminating with the final selection of cover choices in finished book jackets. Highlights will include excerpts from Bickford-Smith’s sketchbooks in which she drew the central character Fox time and time again to create a sensitive and empathetic figure different from the many depictions of foxes in children’s literature.

Bickford-Smith’s desire to create a book that intricately linked prose and design was inspired by the graphic work of William Morris, and in particular the work of his Kelmscott Press. Morris established the Kelmscott Press in 1891 to publish books that reflected the quality and craftsmanship that he admired in medieval books and manuscripts, with ‘the hope of producing some, which would have a definite claim to beauty’. The influence of Morris’s visual style is evident in the motifs and patterns Bickford-Smith uses throughout The Fox and the Star.

The Kelmscott Press reprint of the medieval fable Reynard the Fox, a story about a trickster red fox, served as one of Bickford-Smith’s key inspirations and will exhibited alongside other Kelmscott Press books from the Gallery’s library, which are rarely on public display.

In a short film that will accompany the exhibition, Bickford-Smith is captured at work in her studio as well as in the William Morris Gallery’s library discussing the historic books that have played a major part in the development of her style. As the in-house cover-designer at Penguin Books, Bickford-Smith is celebrated as the creative force behind Penguin’s Clothbound Classics.

Coralie Bickford-Smith said: ‘Morris’s design work on the Kelmscott Press has been an inspiration throughout my career designing book covers for Penguin, and took on a renewed relevance when embarking upon the illustration of my own debut story. His attention to detail and gift for pattern is celebrated in the permanent collections of the William Morris Gallery, who work to inspire and inform people of his legacy. I hope that visitors to the exhibition will use the opportunity to engage with Morris’s work and discover the enduring relevance of his ideas.’

Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, which owns and manages the Gallery said: ‘Visitors to this exciting new exhibition will be given a fascinating insight into what has become one of the most successful children’s books in recent years. We’re proud to be hosting The Fox and the Star at the William Morris Gallery, revealing how Bickford-Smith drew inspiration from Morris’s work.’

The William Morris Gallery will also host a series of special craft activities specific to The Fox and the Star,  which will coincide with The Winter Warmer Christmas Festival in Lloyd Park.

A selection of original screen prints designed to commemorate the exhibition will be available at William Morris Gallery annual Christmas Shop along with a range of prints, cards, postcards inspired by The Fox and the Star  and limited edition acrylic jewellery by contemporary designers I Am Acrylic.

About Coralie Bickford-Smith

Coralie Bickford-Smith graduated from Reading University where she studied Typography and Graphic Communication and currently works in-house at Penguin Books. Her designs for the covers of the Penguin Classics clothbound series have attracted international acclaim and refer back to the world of Victorian bookbindings. In 2015 Coralie wrote and illustrated her own book, The Fox and the Star, which was published by Penguin and won Waterstones Book of the Year. She is an AIGA and D&AS recognised illustrator.

About the William Morris Gallery

The William Morris Gallery is the only public Gallery devoted to William Morris: designer, craftsman and radical socialist. Housed in the grade II* listed building that was Morris’s family home from 1848 to 1856, the Gallery reopened in August 2012 following a major redevelopment that attracted widespread public and press acclaim. Since its re-launch the Gallery has developed an ambitious contemporary programme, hosting Morris-inspired exhibitions by artists including Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller, Yinka Shonibare, Bob and Roberta Smith and Clare Twomey.

The Gallery, which is owned and run by Waltham Forest Council, was awarded The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year 2013 and was been nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award in 2014.

William Morris Gallery

Where : Forest Road, London E17 4PP

Opening Times : Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; admission free

Website : William Morris Gallery


This exhibition has been supported by Fullers Builders, Walthamstow.

Image credit: Spread from The Fox and the Star ©  Coralie Bickford-Smith

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