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The Frick Art and Historical Center presents Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children's Book Illustration
Lawson Wood (British, 1878–1957), “The Snork Cover” from Noo-Zoo Tales, late 1920s. Watercolor on paper, 5 15/16 x 7 1/4 in. Collection Cartoon Art Museum, San Francisco, CA.

PITTSBURGH, PA.- The Frick Pittsburgh will welcome spring early this year, with a charming exhibition, Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration, on view at The Frick Art Museum from February 11 through May 20. The exhibition of 40 illustrations and 13 books will provide an appealing survey of drawing styles and techniques from Randolph Caldecott (1846–1886) in the 19th century to Chris Van Allsburg (b. 1949) in the 20th and 21st.—with many delightful and familiar artists in between including Ernest Shepard (1879–1976), Maurice Sendak (b. 1928), Tomie dePaola (b. 1934), and Jules Feiffer (b. 1929). The exhibition will remain on view through May 20, 2012, and admission is free.

Draw Me a Story presents a unique opportunity for the Frick to connect the interests of parents and children across time, beginning with the period of the Fricks and moving to the present day, the charm and universality of childhood will be explored through pictures intended to be juxtaposed with the simplest of children’s books, nursery rhymes and ABCs to those intended for more complex adventures and allegories designed to delight older children—like Gulliver’s Travels, and The Phantom Tollbooth.

This family-friendly exhibition will be complemented by Childhood at Clayton, an adjacent exhibition drawn from the Frick’s permanent collection related to growing up during the Gilded Age—books, toys, games, clothing, and period photographs will focus on the play time, work time, and reading interests of the Frick children, Childs, Martha and Helen, while connecting their experience to larger cultural shifts—like new attitudes towards child development, the importance of education and the emphasis on play as important to a child’s growth.

Draw Me a Story surveys 100 years of accomplishments beginning in the nineteenth century with examples of work by the hugely influential artists Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway (1846–1901). Caldecott’s importance is recognized by the Caldecott Medal, an award given by the Association for Library Service to Children to the most distinguished picture book of the year; one award winner and two honor books have been named annually since 1938. Caldecott recognized artists Don Freeman (1908–1978), Maurice Sendak, Tomie dePaola, William Steig (1907–2003), Chris Van Allsburg, Daniel San Souci (b. 1948), and Trina Schart Hyman (1939–2004) are all included in the exhibition.

Bridging the 19th and 20th centuries is Canadian artist and author Palmer Cox (1840–1924), who created a craze with his Brownie stories, first published in magazines like St. Nicholas and later collected into books beginning in the 1880s and continuing into the 1900s. Cox’s Brownies were some of the first characters used in marketing and product licensing agreements—the Brownie’s were used to sell everything from soap to cameras—with Kodak’s famous Brownie camera taking its name from Cox’s charming, mischievous creatures. Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration features one of Cox’s ink drawings and one of his books. Cox is represented in the library at Clayton by his 1888 book Queer People with Paws and Claws, which is inscribed at the front: Martha H. Frick Xmas 1889, and will be featured in the complementary exhibition of artifacts from the Frick’s permanent collection.

Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration moves through the 20th century with artists like Mabel Lucie Attwell (1879–1964) whose sentimental watercolors of chubby, simplified children were extremely popular in the 1930s and 40s and were based on observation of her own daughter. Artist Johnny Gruelle (1880–1938) was also inspired by his daughter, whose ragdoll became internationally famous when Gruelle decided to market both the doll and stories about her in his Raggedy Ann series. A 1932 illustration by Gruelle from one of his most charming Raggedy Ann storybooks, Raggedy Ann’s Lucky Pennies, is included in the exhibition.

The second half of the 20th century is represented by artists like Sendak and Van Allsburg. Sendak has been selected seven times as a Caldecott honor illustrator, and won the award in 1964 for Where the Wild Things Are. The exhibition features a sketch of Max, the boy who travels to live with the wild things. Van Allsburg has won the Caldecott twice , and once received Caldecott honors. The exhibition includes a pencil drawing of the Letter “G,” from his 1987 book, The Z was Zapped.

Draw Me a Story will be staged with artworks hung slightly lower than usual, step stools available, and reading nooks in the galleries for visitors young and old. The illustrations include detailed watercolors, expressive pen drawings, and experimental combinations of media. Viewers will get a sense of how an artist’s vision can tell a story with a single image or bring a familiar story to life in a new way. Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustrations was organized by the Cartoon Museum, San Francisco.

The Frick’s exploration of Childhood at Clayton will use artifacts from the Clayton collection to look more closely at growing up in the Gilded Age. This was an era of change in Americans’ perceptions of childhood and attitudes towards child development and education began to shift as children began to be seen as innocent individuals whose guidance, proper education and upbringing were essential to their future success. Children were believed to be central to life in the home, and many of the objects in Clayton reflect the lives of the Frick children. Their toys, books, clothing, and furniture, while clearly from a privileged household, nonetheless represent the general beliefs of the time in the virtues of play, formal education and proper social training.

Enlargements of period photographs will allow visitors to see the places where the Frick children spent much of their time—Childs Frick’s bedroom on the third floor, Helen Frick’s bedroom as it looked in 1900, the third floor playroom with its abundance of dolls, and the school room space on the top floor of Clayton. In addition to books for pleasure and education selected to complement the content of Draw Me a Story, the exhibition will include artifacts like a pair of lovely, hand painted wooden bookends, a paint kit for young artists, and a toy stove with an array of tiny, fancy foods.

Draw Me a Story: A Century of Children’s Book Illustration and Childhood at Clayton are on view at The Frick Art Museum from February 11 through May 20, 2012. Admission is free.

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