Eric Carle Museum’s New Exhibition Features a Rare Drawing by Tomi

This week the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts celebrates its fifteenth anniversary, and launches a new exhibition- Treasures from the Collection: A 15 Year Celebration. The exhibition features an original drawing by Tomi, created during a New York Public Library TV show called “It’s Fun to Read”.  The show ran during the mid to late 1960s on WNYC-TV, New York’s public access television station.

Tomi Ungerer Eric Carle Museum

Tomi’s drawing in the Eric Carle museum’s 15th anniversary show. © Tomi Ungerer, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art collection.

The drawing, which was donated to the museum by Katherine Lutz Coppock in 2009, is a piece of Tomi’s New York history! He arrived to the city in 1956, and spent 16 years there working on his now iconic advertising campaigns, posters, and of course his children’s books. In an exclusive essay for Phaidon, Tomi wrote that he “had fallen in love with New York City. It was a dream come true, oneirically peopled with generous, open-minded folk. I felt welcome everywhere. To this day, I can feel its pent-up energy, the tingling excitement of the unexpected, the farfetched within reach.”

Tomi in his New York studio, 1960s.

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art has long been a supporter of Tomi’s work, and even features in a scene of the 2012 documentary, Far Out Isn’t Far Enough: The Tomi Ungerer Story. Opened by the illustrator Eric Carle and his late wife Barbara Carle in 2002, the museum is the only full-scale one of its kind in the United States. It honours picture books and illustration as an art form, and draws an audience of art lovers young and old. We wish the museum a very happy fifteenth birthday, long may it stand!

Here is some more information on the anniversary show from the museum’s press release:

The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art Presents Treasures from the Collection: A 15 Year Celebration

In honor of its anniversary, the Museum will present highlights from its holdings in the exhibition Treasures from the Collection: A 15 Year Celebration, on view November 19, 2017 through April 1, 2018.

The exhibition features 96 artworks representing a range of time periods and media, from Harry Bingham Neilson’s 1898 pen-and-ink drawing for Life’s Book of Animals to Ekua Holmes’s 2015 paper collage for Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Iconic picture-book characters Peter Rabbit, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eloise, and Shrek will delight guests young and old. Artists represented in the exhibition include Don Freeman, Trina Schart Hyman, Dorothy Lathrop, Leo Lionni, Arnold Lobel, David Macaulay, James Marshall, Petra Mathers, Wendell Minor, Jerry Pinkney, Uri Shulevitz, William Steig, Simms Taback, Tony DiTerlizzi, Chris Van Allsburg, Mo Willems, Garth Williams, Paul O. Zelinsky, and Lisbeth Zwerger, among others.

“I am honored to care for this collection, to preserve the legacies of artists and their contributions to children’s literature,” said Chief Curator Ellen Keiter. “My goal with the exhibition is to be inclusive. There are no thematic categories or chronologies to follow. It is an eclectic presentation with a focus on acquisitions of the last five years.”

In addition to the variety of artwork, a selection of three-dimensional objects are also on view. A display of dummy books (handmade mock-ups of picture books) provides insight into the artistic process. As Keiter notes, “It’s fascinating to study an artist’s initial concepts for a picture book and see how the story and images developed and changed. Simms Taback’s dummy for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly is a near replica of the published book, but at a quarter of its size. Barbara McClintock’s dummy for Heartaches of a French Cat begins as detailed drawings, but becomes sketchier as the story progresses.” Reproductions of the original dummy books are available in the gallery for guests to handle and read.

A “Treasure Tower” in the center of the exhibition showcases some unique objects from the collection. These include Antonio Frasconi’s hand-carved printing blocks, Arnold Lobel’s sketchbook, Eric Carle’s hard hat from the Museum’s ground-breaking, and the inscribed pocket watch that Margaret Wise Brown presented to Leonard Weisgard when he won the Caldecott Medal for The Little Island. A selection of artist doodles—drawn over 15 years of artist visits, workshops, and book signings—are on view in the auditorium hallway.

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