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Celebrated around the world for his illustrations to the books of Roald Dahl, Sir Quentin Blake has recently sold many of his preparatory, alternative or otherwise unused drawings for those and other projects.

Offered in two July sales held by Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium), they raised substantial sums for three charities, among them The House of Illustration, the UK’s only public gallery dedicated wholly to illustrative and graphic art.

Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, supporting specialist children’s nurses in the UK, and Survival International, focusing on preserving the rights of tribal peoples, will also benefit.

Preliminary drawings and artworks for many of Blake’s best-loved projects were retained for a variety of reasons. Some were simple alternative versions or trials, or the ‘nearly all right’ works that survived when Blake found it difficult to make up his mind about which to use.

The majority of these ink and watercolour illustrations, almost 150 of them, were offered online in a July 3-12 sale, but a further selection of 30 lots, including many perceived as having the greatest sales potential, formed part of the big summer book auction at King Street on July 11.

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A variant version of a drawing made for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, sold at £12,000.

Recent works

In the event, several of the best-sellers were very recent works. These were watercolours produced for the 2016 Roald Dahl Centenary Portraits project, in which famous characters from the books were depicted in a series of 10 new portraits. All measured 2ft 4in x 22in (76 x 56cm).

One was The Grand High Witch, which sold at £28,000 as part of the online sale, while an alternative portrait of Matilda (shown here) sold for £35,000 and a group portrait of characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory that made £40,000 (illustrated in News, ATG No 2351) were both part of the selection offered during the July 11 sale.

Also shown is an alternative illustration for The Enormous Crocodile, which in 1978 had been the first Dahl book to include illustrations by Blake. It sold at £11,000.