|Final drawing for Atomics for the Millions. Pen and ink, gouache. (C) 1946-7 by Maurice Sendak.|
|Contract for Atomics for the Millions, July 22, 1946|
It was another four years before Sendak illustrated another book: Marcel Ayme’s Wonderful Farm, which marked the beginning of his career in children’s books. Sendak’s illustrations for Atomics for the Millions were long presumed destroyed, and it is a shame no other illustrations have resurfaced. But these 18 demonstrate a number of characteristics about the young illustrator that could be said of the mature Sendak, as well. They reveal his debt to comics and early animation; his blend of literal, serious imagery (such as the Einstein and Curie portraits) with imaginative, humorous illustrations (Sodium and Chlorine atoms as dancing partners "attracted" to each other); and his developing pen-and-ink style that favored shading and texture through cross-hatching. Atomics for the Millions might not be the brightest star in the constellation of Sendak-illustrated books, but it may just be the big bang where some of the elements of his illustration find their origins. See for yourself next week, when we install one or two of the drawings in our current exhibition, Maurice Sendak: A Legacy (closes May 26th).
Patrick Rodgers is Curator of the Maurice Sendak Collection at the Rosenbach Museum & Library.