Amherst, MA --The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art celebrates the golden anniversary of William Steig's seminal book Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Steig's famous fable tells of Sylvester Duncan, a donkey who discovers a magic pebble and accidentally turns himself into a rock. With humor and pathos, Steig illustrates an emotional tale of discovery, loss, and reunion. Above all, it is a story about the love of family. William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: A Golden Anniversary is on view from May 4 to December 1 in The Carle's Central Gallery.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble has held a special place in readers' hearts for 50 years. Contemporary illustrators often cite the book as one of their greatest influences. The Carle is fortunate to have in its permanent collection Steig's preliminary sketches and dummy books related to the publication, thanks to the generosity of Jeanne Steig who donated over 1,000 art works by her late husband. The artist's daughter Maggie Steig has generously loaned the original published illustrations--along with her father's paints, tools, personal family photographs, and his prized Caldecott Medal--to the exhibition.
"We have deep holdings of work by Steig in our collection," says chief curator Ellen Keiter. "It is an honor to care for his art and to share it with our guests, particularly during a special anniversary year." In addition to Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, The Carle holds Steig's art for 39 other titles, such as The Amazing Bone (1976), a Caldecott Honor book; Abel's Island (1976) and Doctor De Soto (1982), both Newbery Medal honor books; and Amos & Boris (1971), Dominic (1972), and Caleb & Kate (1977), all National Book Award honorees. Other favorites include CDB! (1968), Brave Irene (1986), and Shrek! (1990), an adaptation of which won an Oscar for best animated film of 2001.
Steig had a prolific and acclaimed career in the arts. Hailed as the "King of Cartoons," he produced a staggering 1,600 drawings and over 100 covers for The New Yorker during his lifetime. At age 61, Steig embarked on a second career as a children's picture book author and illustrator. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was the third of his 40 books for children.
The Carle has featured Steig's art in numerous exhibitions, most recently in Treasures from the Collection: A 15 Year Celebration. In 2004, the Museum organized the retrospective Heart and Humor: The Picture Book Art of William Steig. For this presentation, The Carle designed a charming tableau vivant of Steig's picnic scene--including a "Sylvester rock"--to engage visitors of all ages.
About The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art:
The mission of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a non-profit organization in Amherst, MA, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books. A leading advocate in its field, The Carle collects, preserves, presents, and celebrates picture books and picture-book illustrations from around the world. In addition to underscoring the cultural, historical, and artistic significance of picture books and their art form, The Carle offers educational programs that provide a foundation for arts integration and literacy.
Eric Carle and his wife, the late Barbara Carle, co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Carle is the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 43,000-square foot facility has served more than 750,000 visitors, including 50,000 schoolchildren. The Carle houses more than 11,000 objects, including 7,300 permanent collection illustrations. The Carle has three art galleries, an art studio, a theater, picture book and scholarly libraries, and educational programs for families, scholars, educators, and schoolchildren. Bobbie's Meadow is an outdoor space that combines art and nature. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and Master's degree programs in children's literature with Simmons College. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 am to 4 pm, Saturday 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm. Open Mondays in July and August and during MA school vacation weeks. Admission is $9 for adults, $6 for children under 18, and $22.50 for a family of four. For further information and directions, call (413) 559-6300 or visit the Museum's website at www.carlemuseum.org.
Image: William Steig, Preliminary illustration for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1969). Gift of Jeanne Steig. © William Steig.