The Eric Carle Museum Welcomes Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber
Amherst, MA (January 2014)—The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is proud to present an exhibition featuring the work of Bernard Waber, author and illustrator of more than thirty picture books including Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, Fast Food! Gulp! Gulp!, Lorenzo, and The House on East 88th Street. Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile and Friends: The Art of Bernard Waber, curated by children’s literature expert Leonard S. Marcus, will be on view from March 18 through June 8, 2014. The exhibition will honor Waber’s life’s work, featuring 85 of his witty and imaginative illustrations. Support for the exhibition has been generously provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
About the Artist and His Books
Waber, who died last May at the age of 91, grew up in Depression-era Philadelphia and attended the Philadelphia School of Art. For most of his adult life, he lived in New York City, working as a designer for publishing companies and magazines such as Condé Nast, Time Inc., Seventeen, and Life. It wasn’t until he began reading bedtime stories to his children that picture-book writing became his calling. Waber began submitting his stories to publishing houses, and eventually Houghton Mifflin offered him a two-book contract for Lorenzo and The House on East 88th Street.
According to Marcus, “The funny thing about Bernard Waber, the artist himself once observed, was that, for the first thirty-eight years of his life, people warned him constantly against daydreaming. ‘Wake up!’ they would scold. ‘Snap out of it! . . . [Daydreaming] is . . . bad, bad, bad.’ Then Waber published his first children’s books and people began urging him to daydream more,” says Marcus.
From the beginning, Waber’s illustrations depicted deadpan humor and a joyful spirit. Published in 1962, The House on East 88th Street introduced Lyle, the friendly crocodile who wandered onto Mrs. Primm’s doorstep and into the hearts of readers worldwide. Waber published several books about Lyle, including Lyle Finds his Mother, Lovable Lyle, and Lyle at the Office.
“I don’t know why, but I always liked drawing crocodiles,” Waber recalled in an interview. “I liked their eyes, their teeth, the way they walked, the way they sometimes lay on top of one another while basking in the sun. I liked everything about them—and I thought they were funny.” Waber enjoyed creating all sorts of animals. Among his cast of characters are mice, hippos, pigs, an exuberant porcupine, and a lion named Shirley Williamson. Marcus notes that “in Waber’s unfailingly generous world, differences are ultimately accepted, idiosyncrasy is applauded, and no one remains an outsider for long.”
About the Exhibition
Waber loved the spontaneity and liveliness of drawing freehand without preliminary sketches. He perfected his illustrations through relentless drawing and redrawing of his subjects. The exhibition will display some of these early iterations and examine the evolution of his style as he experimented with different media and drew from different artistic influences, including Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. On view will be an array of his children’s book illustrations, filled with playful words and amusing details, as well as a sampling of his early design work for Time Inc. and Condé Nast.
“We’ve made an ongoing commitment to honor the titans in the field at The Carle. Bernard Waber is clearly one of them,” says Nick Clark, chief curator. “Lyle the Crocodile is now beloved by generations of readers — and Waber’s young character Ira has been a wonderful vehicle for addressing sensitive issues of childhood. Happily all of his work is countenanced by a joyous, colorful brio.”
A 40-page catalog featuring Bernard Waber’s last interview will accompany the exhibition.
About the Museum
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. The only full-scale museum of its kind in the United States, 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 and Barbara Carle founded the Museum in November 2002. Eric Carle is the renowned author and illustrator of more than 70 books, including the 1969 classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Since opening, the 40,000-square foot facility has served more than half a million visitors, including 30,000 schoolchildren. Its extensive resources include a collection of more than 10,000 picture book illustrations, 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. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday12 noon to 5 p.m. 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 413-658-1100 or visit the Museum’s website at www.carlemuseum.org.