Amherst, MA—Sixty years ago, the story of a bear from Darkest Peru found a place in children's literary history when William Collins published A Bear Called Paddington. This coming April, The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is proud to be the first American museum to feature the beloved bear in Paddington Comes to America. This exhibition is on view from April 14th through October 7th and is generously supported by HarperCollins Children's Books and YOTTOY Productions.
On Christmas Eve in 1956, Michael Bond spotted a lonely bear in a London shop. He took it home as a present for his wife and they named it Paddington, after the nearby railway station. Michael, then working as a BBC cameraman, began writing a story about the bear. Bond recalled, "After ten days I found that I had a book on my hands. It wasn't written specifically for children, but I think I put into it the kind of things I liked reading about when I was young." A Bear Called Paddington was first published in 1958.
Bond continued writing and 15 Paddington novels, numerous picture books, and many compilations and gift editions have been published since. Today, more than 35 million Paddington books have been sold worldwide and they have been translated into 40 different languages, including Latin. For the last 37 years of his life, Bond lived in London, not far from Paddington Station where it all began. He continued to write until shortly before his death in June 2017 at age 91.
Paddington Comes to America brings together copies of notes from one of Bond's notebooks, his typewriter, first edition books, memorabilia, and 70 original illustrations by six artists, including a black-and-white line drawing by Peggy Fortnum, the first artist to create a visual image of Paddington. Eager for Paddington to be convincing, Fortnum visited the London Zoo to sketch and photograph bears. She described her challenges: "The line has to be expressive. I do lots of drawings. Humorous drawing is more difficult than any other kind of drawing." Fortnum's charming illustrations, matching the warmth of Bond's story, made the idea of a talking bear from Peru seem perfectly reasonable. Bond said of Fortnum: "She thought very highly of Paddington, as I did of her. It was a happy combination."
In the seventies and eighties, several illustrators worked on various Paddington projects. In 1972, Bond wrote the first in a series of books for younger readers. These picture books required a more detailed illustrative style than the novels and Fred Banbery was hired as the artist. Banbery illustrated six Paddington picture books. Museum visitors can view his watercolors from Paddington at the Seaside in the exhibition.
In 1975, illustrator and animator Ivor Wood designed the puppet for the original Paddington television series. Wood also developed a drawn cartoon strip of Paddington that the London Evening News published in the late 1970s. Wood's drawings appeared on a number of products that were licensed around the same time, including a successful stationery line. His six illustrations on view show his penchant for bright colors and bold outlines.
In the 1980s David McKee, who was already well known for writing and illustrating his own books, including King Rollo, Elmer, and Mr. Benn, was hired as the new artist for Paddington. Seven of McKee's paintings from Paddington at the Zoo are showcased in the exhibition. Barry Macey, who was an in-house artist with Paddington & Co., Ltd., created the artwork for much of the older products and some of the prints. His illustrations from Paddington in the Hot Seat, Paddington Passes Through, and Paddington Takes a Cut are on display.
Paddington Comes to America also features the work of New England artist R. W. Alley. In 1997 Alley was commissioned to illustrate a new series of Paddington picture books by HarperCollins for an American audience. His version of Paddington worked so well that, two decades later, Alley continues to illustrate the Paddington books. He worked closely with Bond to develop the visual look of each story. Alley notes the author's openness to change: Bond insisted the first book be re-illustrated to reflect a major renovation at Paddington Station. And although Paddington never ages, he is always relevant for the time. Alley's art from more than 20 Paddington picture books is on exhibit, along with some of his preliminary sketches and dummy books.
Paddington's status as a cultural icon does not go unnoticed in the exhibition. On view are copies of stills from the 1970s stop-motion television series as well as images from the two recent blockbuster Paddington movies. A display of limited-edition plush bears includes a Gabrielle bear. Gabrielle was the first company to create a Paddington bear and was responsible for giving Paddington his Wellington boots, to help him stand up.
Surely one of the highlights for guests to Paddington Comes to America is a recreated double-decker bus. Guests are invited to board the "hop on/hop off" bus, which also doubles as a reading area. Young visitors will receive special Paddington London Bus Passes and will be encouraged to learn more about the famous sites in London featured around the gallery, having their passes stamped at each location.
Members Reception: Paddington Comes to America
Saturday, April 21, 2018, 5:00 pm Reception; 6:15 pm Paddington Bear at 60, with Paddington Bear Illustrator R. W. Alley. Members RSVP by April 16 to Jenny Darling Stasinos at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gallery Talk with R. W. Alley and Ellen Keiter
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 1:00pm. Free with Museum Admission.
Join Artist R. W. Alley and Chief Curator Ellen Keiter for a gallery talk in the special exhibition Paddington Comes to America, which celebrates the 60th anniversary of the iconic Paddington Bear.
Special Storytime: R. W. Alley**
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 2:00 pm. Free with Museum admission.
R. W. Alley has illustrated over one hundred books for children and, for the past twenty years, has illustrated Michael Bond's Paddington books in all their formats. Join us for a special story time and drawing demonstration with Alley as he reads one of the charming Paddington picture books.
**Book signing to follow program. Can't make it to the event? You may reserve signed books online or contact The Carle Bookshop at email@example.com.
About The Carle
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. 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: R. W. Alley, Illustration for A Bear Called Paddington, HarperCollins, 2007. Courtesy of the artist. © R. W. Alley 2018.