Storied City: New York in Picture Book Art

It’s no secret that children’s picture book art and illustration is a growing trend both at auctions and in museums. The cover feature of our fall issue (making its way to your mailbox this week) is about cartoonist, artist, and playwright Jules Feiffer, who illustrated The Phantom Tollbooth fifty years ago and has been focused on children’s book illustrations for the last decade or so. It so happens that an exhibit of this part of his artistic life opens later this month at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The curator, Leonard S. Marcus, a children’s book historian who also wrote our cover story, is very interested in this cultural reappraisal of comics art and children’s illustration.

In fact, he just curated another exhibit, Storied City: New York in Picture Book Art, which opened yesterday at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, NY. Storied City showcases original art from more than thirty-five picture books and examines the city’s iconic landmarks, neighborhoods, parks, and modes of transportation. The featured illustrators include seven Caldecott Medal winners and several artists long associated with The New Yorker magazine.

Image: Watercolor by LeUyen Pham, Barnum’s elephants crossing the Brooklyn Bridge, from the book Twenty-One Elephants (text by Phil Bildner; Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2004). 9-1/2” x 20-7/8”. Courtesy of Phil Bildner and Kevin Lewis.
This exhibit builds upon a book Marcus wrote back in 2003, Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City, that takes readers on a series of thirty-two tours in all five boroughs, to places like the model boat pond featured in Stuart Little. As Marcus told me last week, "The exhibition, like the book, was inspired by my lifelong appreciation of New York as mythic place of superlatives--firsts and biggests and bests--and my awareness that a substantial illustrated literature for kids had grown up around that premise. A few dozen new books are added to the list every year."

Storied City is a companion exhibit to another NYC-themed exhibit that "celebrates the city as artistic muse," and is drawn from the collection of the Norton Museum of Art. New York, New York! The 20th Century includes paintings, photographs, and sculptures of New York's landmarks from artists like Diane Arbus, Childe Hassam, and Edward Hopper. Both run through December 31.
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