In Celebration of Maurice Sendak
Tonight at the Society of Illustrators (63rd St. and Lexington Ave.) in New York City, an extraordinary exhibition of Maurice Sendak's work opens with a public reception at 7 p.m. ($15 donation suggested); the show will run through August 17. It's the basis for the catalogue Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work (Abrams, $45, 9781419708268), written by exhibit curators Justin G. Schiller and Dennis M.V. David, edited by Leonard S. Marcus, with 12 essays from the likes of Marcus, Iona Opie, Steven Heller and Paul O. Zelinsky.
The catalogue is wonderful, but nothing can compare to standing before a 3-D cluster of furniture--a grandfather clock and an armchair--designed by this master draftsman; Sendak's notes scrawled on a study for an animated television presentation for the Really Rosie TV show (he writes, "Rosie should have look of exaggerated suffering--a deep, heavy, Jewish mother sigh... over-dramatic shrug"); or the stone etchings he created in preparation for the sets he designed for The Magic Flute. From the exhibition, we learn that Sendak contemplated illustrating Outside Over There entirely with etchings (a etched study and watercolor sketches of the same scene contrast the effect).
Do not miss the cow sculpture downstairs, the anchor amid a wonderland of Wild Things–themed drawings, posters, interior illustrations and American Express ads. The cow is imprinted with the faces of Bernard, Moishe and the other Wild Things, with Max beneath it in a tin pail, suckling the teats. The piece calls to mind Sendak's eight-vignette sequence in "Guile-Malicious" from I Saw Esau, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, ("I one my mother./ I two my mother./.../ I ate my mother"), in which a nursing baby devours its parent.
It's Sendak's world in three dimensions at the Society of Illustrators, and a reminder that, although he was not here on Monday to celebrate his 85th birthday with us, his life's work survives him--and helps us to survive this crazy world with the aid of his diabolical sense of humor, his eye for beauty, and his enduring appreciation and understanding of childhood. --Jennifer M. Brown
Photos courtesy of the Society of Illustrators.