"A Marriage of Artistry: Leo And Diane Dillon" Opens at the Eric Carle Museum on May 26

Amherst, MA — Together, Leo and Diane Dillon created illustrations of extraordinary beauty and cultural resonance, illuminating global stories of diverse subjects--from the Caldecott Medal-winning picture book Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears to the paperback covers of classic children's literature. The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to present A Marriage of Artistry: Leo and Diane Dillon, on view from May 26, 2018 through November 25, 2018 in the Central Gallery.

Born 11 days apart on opposite sides of the country, Leo Dillon (1933-2012) and Diane Sorber (b. 1933) met as students at the Parsons School of Design in New York, where they became instant rivals and steadfast partners in life and art. They worked in concert for 50 years, demonstrating remarkable versatility and a mastery of media. No single style defines their art; they skillfully adopted different modes of expression to best illustrate each narrative. 

The Dillons are the only artists ever to win the Caldecott Medal in back-to-back years, and the exhibition features original art from those two distinguished books: Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People's Ears (1976) and Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (1977). They produced art together in their Brooklyn brownstone, collaborating on every piece until Leo's passing in 2012. In a 2015 interview, Diane said, "We came to the concept of the 'third artist,' which was the combination of the two of us doing something that neither one of us could do separately. We would look at a piece after we finished it, and it'd be impossible for us to figure out who did what." The family collaboration extended to their son Lee, who sculpted several customized frames for his parents work, including the 50th edition cover art for C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In the exhibition, a drawing activity emphasizes the art of collaboration by inviting visitors to work together on a shared picture.

Twenty-three titles are represented in A Marriage of Artistry: Leo and Diane Dillon, three of which Leo and Diane authored. Diane's first solo effort, I Can Be Anything! Don't Tell Me I Can't (2018), is also featured. The Dillon's extraordinary amalgamation of imagery illustrates African, Japanese, Inuit, and West Indian folklore, mythologies, and Biblical stories. Many of their books address African and African-American history. They dedicated themselves to portraying children of color so young readers could see themselves reflected in stories. As Leo noted in a 2002 interview, "We're an interracial couple, and we decided early in our career that we wanted to represent all races and show people that were rarely seen in children's books at the time." They illustrated the words of dozens of authors, including notable Newbery Medalist Virginia Hamilton, and fastidiously researched the cultures they portrayed.

"There is an astonishing range of emotions and artistic styles presented in the exhibition," says Ellen Keiter, the Museum's chief curator. "Some stories, like Jazz on a Saturday Night (2007), provide a joyful dance through history while others, such as The People Could Fly (2004) and Never Forgotten (2011), depict the haunting horrors of slavery." The Dillon's used acrylic, oil, watercolor, collage, pastel, gold leaf, and other media to create their imagery. Whatever the format or varied subject matter, their illustration is proof of their ability to master visual storytelling.

Gallery Talk:

A Marriage of Artistry: Leo and Diane Dillon

Thursday, May 31, 4:00 - 6:00 pm

Join Chief Curator Ellen Keiter for a guided gallery talk. A book signing with Diane Dillon and a light reception in the Great Hall will follow.  Free with Museum Admission, reservations suggested; call 413-559-6336.

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.

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