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Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Rumpus on the Walls


Photo courtesy of Michael O’Reilly
Since Maurice Sendak’s death two days ago we’ve been seeing an outpouring of remembrances, as well as a lot of renewed interest in his work, both online and in our galleries.  Everyone seems to be asking the same question: What is Sendak’s legacy?


Everyone has a different way of answering that.  Sendak was not only a writer and illustrator, but also a stage and costume designer for more than a dozen operas.  He was a philanthropist, a classical music fanatic, a collector of books and art and Mickey Mouse toys, and a friend to many.  Maurice Sendak’s legacy is vast.  

Those of us who care for and work with the Sendak Collection know that his artwork itself is the most profound expression of his legacy.  So on Sunday, June 10, 2012 (which would have been Maurice’s 84th birthday) we’ll open Maurice Sendak: A Legacy, a year-long retrospective exhibition of his work.  Our goal is to display artwork from as many Sendak books as possible in our Sendak Gallery on the first floor, hopefully 65 drawings (to honor his 65-year career).  That way you can see the entire arc of his work, from his smaller format, black and white illustrations from the 1950s, to his multi-layered 21st-century creations, like Brundibar, as well as everything in between (maybe you’ve heard of such books as, say, Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen).  We will install all new artwork every four months, that way you can see art from almost all of the 93-odd books that Sendak illustrated in his lifetime.  As an added perk, the museum will be open for free on June 10.   

It will be a feast of Sendak’s pictures to which all are welcome, and a reunion of sorts for his characters, with the Wild Things, Mickey, Rosie, Pierre, Jennie, and more, all together again in the same gallery.  It will be a challenge to display it all, and our Sendak gallery might look as closely hung as a 17th-century cabinet of curiosities (well, not quite like that: we wouldn’t hang Alligators All Around from the ceiling like curiosity collectors did with their stuffed alligators!).  But we do hope you bring your curiosity for Sendak’s work to this exhibition so we can all continue to explore his legacy. 

Three storyboard designs for Outside Over There.  Pen and ink.  © 1976 by Maurice Sendak

We’re curious, too: What has Sendak’s work meant to you?  What Sendak books or characters—be they well-known or obscure—have stayed with you since you first came upon them?  We know you’ve got stories to share, as well, and we’re collecting them in our virtual guestbook.

P.S. If you can't wait to see Sendak's work until June 10, From Pen to Publisher is currently on view.

Patrick Rodgers is the Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator at the Rosenbach and has curated numerous in-house and traveling exhibitions from the Sendak collection

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