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Children's Book Illustrations Conjure Magic from Real Life at Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers
Roger Duvoisin, alternate illustration for A for the Ark, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1952.Tempera, ink, graphite, and collage on paper. Collection of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Gift of the artist and family. Used by permission of the Estate of Roger Duvoisin. Photography by Jack Anderson.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ.- The sometime chilly realities of modern-day life take on warmth and verve in 35 original children’s book illustrations created between 1960 and the present day, on view at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers through May 23, 2010 in How We Live Now: Picturing Everyday Life in Children’s Book Illustration.

On view are delicate watercolors executed with languid washes and quick dabs of color, black and white sketches, color photographs, and expressive pastel figure drawings as well as a variety of styles and methods mirroring the social themes and subjects of contemporary culture.

Books for viewing and for browsing will be on display in the exhibition, which has been drawn from the museum’s collection of Original Illustrations for Children’s Literature, which includes over 4000 objects including original illustrations, preparatory materials, manuscripts and books by more than 100 American artists from the early 20th-century to present day. “This outstanding collection invites the creative response of visitors of all ages,” says Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli.

“How We Live Now reflects a change in children’s books that began in the late 1960s, as technical improvements in image reproduction and changes in social awareness combined to produce a growing number of books reflecting the diversity of the American people and our way of life,” says Gail Aaron, Assistant Curator, Original Illustrations for Children’s Books, Morse Research Center for Graphic Arts, and the exhibition organizer. “Here, we see illustrators striving to portray children’s lives more authentically and featuring subjects that had been neglected in the past.”

Twenty deftly executed watercolors by the portrait artist Catherine Stock exemplify this new wave, addressing difficult subjects like teen pregnancy in Doll Baby (2001) and a small boy’s effort to bring his opposing neighbors together in Miss Viola and Uncle Ed Lee (1999). A deep-hued watercolor illustration by Michael Bryant for Good-bye Hello (1995) deals with the subject of transition, bringing to the foreground, from the child’s point of view, the concern about moving to a new home.

Roger Duvoisin’s illustrations for It’s Time Now (1969) quietly present racial diversity as a fact of existence in delightfully economical and painterly depictions of the change of seasons on city streets. By contrast, in The Liquid Trap (1976), John Thompson’s black and white sketches of a young girl from the city traveling by bus to visit her family in the South, depicts in more realistic version of society.

Children participating in sporting activities are portrayed in a range of media by the artists Barbara Beirne, E.B. Lewis and Stephen T. Johnson. Beirne’s color photographs for Riders Up! (1992) follow an eight-year-old girl through training and preparation for her first pony race. Lewis’s watercolor illustrations for Staying Cool (1997) were inspired by the neighborhood gyms in his native Philadelphia, and Johnson modeled his lively, textured pastel drawings for Hoops (1997) and Goal (2001) from basketball courts and playing fields in Brooklyn and New Jersey.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum | How We Live Now | Catherine Stock |

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