The great temporary exhibitions

12.06.12 > 25.11.12

Retrospective Posy Simmonds

Essentially English

Riddled with literary allusions, class clashes and repressed desires, the graphic novels of Posy Simmonds are quintessentially English.


Don’t be fooled by her demure appearance and upper-class, cut-crystal accent. Her powers of observation are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types stingingly precise. For years, hardly anybody outside of Britain had heard of Posy, unless they read her weekly Guardian social satires featuring the liberal Weber family or her children's books, including Fred adapted into an Oscar-nominated cartoon. But all that has changed with the tragic leading beauties of her murder-mystery graphic novels, Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe, in which she cleverly updates and reinvents novels by Gustave Flaubert and Thomas Hardy. The Belgian Comic Strip Museum in Brussels under the curator Paul Gravett, hosts her first exhibition of original art and unseen sketches to span her entire career. It confirms that Posy Simmonds, now widely translated and acclaimed, is no longer a secret but a national treasure delighting an international audience.

Allow us to introduce you to Posy Simmonds. If you have not met her before, Posy is simply one the world’s most sophisticated contemporary authors expanding the scope and subtlety of the graphic novel. Based in London, Posy has become renowned since the early Seventies, not only as a brilliant strip cartoonist for the national press, but also as a much-loved author and illustrator of children’s books. Despite her success in her homeland, for many years few people outside of Britain knew much about Posy Simmonds, unless they stumbled across her weekly satirical comics in The Guardian newspaper featuring the liberal Weber family, or discovered her charming stories for children such as Fred, perhaps through its adaptation in 1996 into the Oscar-nominated animated short film Famous Fred.

All that has changed thanks to her two romantic murder-mystery graphic novels, Gemma Bovery (1999) and Tamara Drewe (2007). Initially inspired by the 19th century novels Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert and Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, Posy cleverly updates their tragic leading beauties by subtly reinterpreting their destinies and giving them some unexpected modern twists. Both of her graphic novels have been translated into numerous languages to great success and acclaim. Gemma Bovery was selected as one of the twenty landmark books in an exhibition to mark the first two decades of the Belgian Comic Strip Center. In 2009, the French edition of Tamara Drewe (Denoël) won an Essential Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival and won the Prix des Critiques de la Bande Dessinée, while Posy was the honoured guest of the 2011 Strip Turnhout Festival. Many more people worldwide have discovered Tamara Drewe through Stephen Frears’ highly popular film adaptation in 2010.

Riddled with literary allusions, class clashes and repressed desires, the comics of Posy Simmonds are essentially English, but they have a universal appeal. Appearances can be deceiving - don't be fooled by Posy’s demure manner and her upper-class accent. Her powers of observation are laser-sharp, her mimicry of accents and types stingingly precise. As you will see, Posy Simmonds is one of today’s most astute chroniclers and critics of contemporary British society.

The Belgian Comics Centre in Brussels is delighted to host her first major exhibition to span her entire career. As well as showing her exquisite original artwork from almost all of her published books, this retrospective presents the unseen preparatory stages and sketchbooks, as well as revealing ‘deleted scenes’, intriguing finished sequences which she dropped from both Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe. Posy has also loaned her earliest home-made, one-off comics from her childhood, and illustrations from her assorted collaborations with other writers. This timely survey of over forty years confirms that Posy Simmonds is no longer a best-kept secret, but truly a national treasure who is delighting a growing international readership.

With the support of the Embassy of Belgium in the United Kingdom, the British Council and the Brussels-Capital Region.

Tags : Museum / Strip


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