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“Picture Books Through the Ages”

Yeong Min Kim


EXCERPT of <Script, Slide 1> Thank you, fellow interns and staff members, for attending my seminar here at the Guggenheim. I am sure most, if not all of you have read “Where the Wild Things Are,” by the beloved children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. And if not, I bet many of you have seen or heard of Spike Jonze’s recent cinematic adaptation of this children’s classic- which, if I may add, was breathtakingly beautiful and embraced the spirit of the book remarkably well. But moving on… In my seminar, I would like to focus on where the wild things CAME FROM; as in, how picture books such as this came to be; and the history, the development, and the evolution of picture books and children’s book illustrations, to be exact. […]


Why Picture Books? “[Picture books] may well have mattered so little to historians of past generations precisely because the books mattered so much to children. With their place firmly fixed in the foreground of young people’s intimate lives, few scholars thought to look further or to ask what the books might possibly mean as commercial or cultural artifacts, much less as works of literature and art.” - Leonard Marcus’s “Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children’s Literature”


EXCERPT of <Script, Slide 2> Although I am, of course, not the first individual to delve into the art of picture books, the study of books and the accompanying illustrations for young people are a fairly recent phenomenon. By exploring images that are familiar and beloved to many of us in this room, and some that are completely new, I wanted to shed some light on and bring attention to a medium that many historians, art historians, critics and artists have neglected to take as seriously as they do, say, classical literature or the fine arts. Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s book illustration is the kind of art that we are first exposed to and we first experience as children, and the kind of art that is somewhat of an introduction to the experience of looking at art. [â&#x20AC;Ś]


Picture Books

â&#x20AC;&#x153;A picture book is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and commercial product; a social, cultural, historical document; and, foremost, and experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning of the page. On its own terms its possibilities are limitless.â&#x20AC;?


The Illustrator vs. The Artist

Unlike the artist who creates a self-contained piece, the illustrator works within the constraints of the "book."

In a picture book, each illustration must respond to the story. At the same time, the illustrator is responsible for enhancing the story through visual clues.


Picture Books Through the Ages


17th Century

Comenius, Orbus Pictus, 1657


18th Century

The Renowned History of Little Goody Two Shoes, 1765

The Renowned History of Little Goody Two Shoes, 1888 edition


18th Century

Thomas Bewick, Wood engravings from a Pretty Book of Pictures for Little Masters and Misses : or, Tommy Tripâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s History of Beasts and Birds, Dog Jowler, Giant Woglog. 1799


Wood Engraving vs. Wood Cut


18th Century

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience, 1794


19th Century

George Cruikshank, Grimm's Collection of German Popular Stories (1824-26)


19th Century

John Tennial, Aliceâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865


19th Century

Justin H. Howard Doings of the Alphabet, 1869 Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.


19th Century

Randolph Caldecott, A Frog He Would A-Wooing Go, 1883


20th Century

Beatrix Potter, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, 1902


20th Century, 1920s

Ernest Shepherd, Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926


20th Century, 1920s

Ernest H. Shepard, The Wind in the Willows, 1933


20th Century, 1930s


20th Century, 1930s

Norman Rockwell, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1936


20th Century, 1930s


20th Century, 1940-50s


20th Century, 1940-50s


20th Century, 1940-50s


20th Century, 1940-50s


20th Century, 1960s

Maurice Sendak, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963

"The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind and another.â&#x20AC;?


20th Century, 1960s

Maurice Sendak, The Hobbit, 1967.


20th Century, 1960s ~

Margot Zemach, Jake and Honeybunch Go to Heaven, 1982


EXCERPT of <Slide 30 Script> Before the 1960s, images of people of color were rarely included in children's books, and when they were, they were often disparaging caricatures. Peter of The Snowy Day, published in 1962 by Ezra Jack Keats, was one of the first to break that mold. Later, African-American illustrators like Jerry Pinkney would make this genre their own. In the '70s, libraries and schools started to seek out AfricanAmerican folk tales, like the story of Jake and Honeybunch going to heaven, shown in this illustration from Margot Zemach's 1982 book of the same name. In fact, children's literature moved so far in such a short time that Zemach's celebrated book encountered some resistance from librarians, who feared it might inadvertently reinforce stereotypes by featuring a poor black laborer rather than a more affluent or accomplished protagonist. […]


20th Century, 1960s


EXCERPT of <Script, Slide 32> BUT ALSO, In the mid-1960s a new kind of picture book emerged in which the illustrations dominate the text. For example, Eric Carle's bright, bold collages made from painted tissue paper debuted in the picture book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See? In 1967, and his Very Hungry Caterpillar (1967) has become a preschool classic. […]


20th Century, 1960s


20th Century, 1970s

Raymond Briggs, The Snowman, 1978


EXCERPT of <Script, Slide 35> By the 1970s, children's book illustration had developed into an artistic feast of incredible variety and richness, expressive of a particularly imaginative range of individual creativity.

Raymond Briggs, The Snowman, 1978 was a picture book that was entirely wordless, and went on to spawn a number of books in which the story is carried entirely by pictures. […]


20th Century, 1970s

â&#x20AC;&#x153;A picture book is a story told in words and pictures. Each makes an important contribution to the way the story is told, the meaning created. A picture is not the same as an illustrated story: there the words alone could tell the story and the illustrations simply break up the words or decorate the text...In the best picture books, the illustrations are absolutely necessary. They carry parts of the story or narrative and in some cases the language is dropped and the pictures alone are all that is needed.â&#x20AC;?


20th Century, 1980-90s


Picture Books in the Digital Age


Interview with Helen Craig


Picture Book Art Museums


Picture Books for Adults

“The splendid illustrations of novels and children’s books […] intended for persons who can scarcely read, are among the few things capable of moving to tears those who can say they have read everything. […] The hundred headless woman will be preeminently the picture book of our day.”

- Andre Breton, Introduction to 100 Headless Woman (La Femme 100 Tetes)


Max Ernst


EXCERPT of <Script, Slide 43> Ernst crafted his picturebook by selecting fragments of wood engravings from nineteenth-century magazines, encyclopedias and trivial novels. Some collages parody famous works of art. The newly forged combinations of scientific instruments and floating figures and of landscapes with unexpected interiors guarantee the odd dream world identified so closely with Surrealism. . […]


Edward Gorey "Edward Gorey's work is remarkable and mysterious. I find it fascinating.â&#x20AC;? - Max Ernst

The Object-Lesson, by Edward Gorey, 1958


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Guggenheim Seminar (Picture Books)  
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