Wednesday, September 24, 2014

American Book Collectors of Children's Books

ABCs member Frank Gagliardi presented “Beyond the Movable Book: Some Variations on a Theme” at the privately funded Wood Memorial Library in South Windsor, CT in December 2013.  Ample samples accompanied a slide show depicting pop-up and movable books, volvelles, invitations, catalogues, programs, advertisements, maps, calling cards, greeting cards, calendars, and Christmas ornaments.  A retired academic librarian, Gagliardi has been active in the Movable Book Society, having served as its Program Chair.
2014 began with Billie Levy’s talk at the New Britain (CT) Museum of American Art, “A Collector’s Perspective: Why Maurice Sendak?”  A perspicacious collector of Sendak books, original art, ephemera, and regalia for 40 years, Levy gave an insightful PowerPoint presentation to demonstrate the influences of other artists and illustrators on his work, as well as the pervasive presence of his family.  The talk was one in a series complementing “Maurice Sendak,” an exhibition celebrating the 50th anniversary of Where the Wild Things Are; works from Levy’s collection were among the 65 exhibits.
February gave us a double-hitter, with Wendell Minor and Ruth Sanderson talking to us at the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA), where they had concurrent exhibitions.  Four galleries were dedicated to Minor’s work, covering works about nature, American history, and child-specific themes, as well as his cover art (he has illustrated more than 2,000 covers).  He spoke of the impression Thomas Moran’s landscapes made on him, for his use of color, atmospheric light, and texture.  The narrative powers of Edward Hopper and Rockwell have also influenced his work.   Sanderson spoke of back lighting as one of the techniques she admired in Rockwell’s work and uses herself.  She credited her formal art school education for giving her a solid foundation, as well as Disney Studios, where she learned layering technique.  Known as a picture book illustrator, she typically works on 3-5 paintings simultaneously.
We returned to the New Britain Museum of American Art later in the month for a panel discussion in conjunction with the Sendak exhibition.  Illustrator-authors Normand Chartier, Barbara McClintock, Wendell Minor, and Bill Thomson spoke of their careers and how Sendak influenced them.
The West Hartford Public Library hosted us in April for a talk by Judge Henry Cohn, a collector of Freddy the Pig books.  While little-known today, the 26 books in the series, written by Walter R. Brooks from 1927-1958, were very popular until the 1970’s.  Illustrated by Kurt Wiese, who twice won both Newbery and Caldecott medals, they were believed to be inspired by Sherlock Holmes and featured humans and anthropomorphized barnyard animals.  A 1994 New York Times article lamented that the books were unknown, but The Overlook Press now offers facsimile editions of all 26 titles.  Judge Cohn had won a competition sponsored by the international “Friends of Freddy,” and donated the prize—copies of all 26 titles—to the Faxon Branch of WHPL, where he read as a child.

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