Molson Collection of Art

The art work on display throughout this exhibit were selected from a gift to the Lucile Clarke Memorial Children’s Library from Francis and Mary Lois Molson of approximately seventy pieces of original art created for children’s books. Being able to see these original paintings by various prominent illustrators in conjunction with an exhibit of children’s books serves to remind us of the importance of the artists’ contributions to the understanding of children’s stories. This exhibition includes original pieces by such illustrious artists as Leo and Diane Dillon, David Wisniewski, and Arthur Geisert, among others, while the media used to create their pictures ranges from paintings rendered in acrylic, oil, gouache, and watercolor, through pencil drawing, etching, mixed media sculpture, to layered paper cut-outs.

“That night she awoke to a terrible roar” is by Leo and Diane Dillon and was published in Nancy Willard’s Pish, Posh, said Hieronymus Bosh (1991). The story was based on the real Hieronymus Bosch, an artist who lived in the Netherlands around 1450. He was known for the bizarre creatures that populated his work. The painting is acrylic and oil on canvas in a frame created by Leo Dillon that he sculpted and cast out of silver, bronze, and brass frame. Leo and Diane Dillon also created “Aida and Amneris with tray” for Leontyne Price’s Aida (1990). The book itself is beautifully designed, with elements of Egyptian artwork appearing throughout. The painting is acrylic on paper, and shows the wrath of Amneris when she realizes that Radames, the captain of the Egyptian army, loves her handmaid Aida, who was originally a princess carried to Egypt to become a slave.

Hawk Hill is a study in watercolor by Sylvia Long for the cover of Hawk Hill (1996) by Suzie Gilbert. The story centers on the friendship between a new boy in town and a gruff woman who rescues injured raptors. Similarly, Caldecott Award-winning David Small’s “Books Were Piled on top of Chairs” is also painted in watercolor, and appeared in Sarah Small’s The Library (1995). Roy Gerrard’s cover image for his Jocasta Carr, Movie Star (1992) is rendered in watercolor and ink. It captures a lively story, written in poetic form, about a young movie star who flies around the world in her plane searching for her kidnapped dog, Belle. David Delamare’s cover illustration for Katie Campbell’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier (1990) is painted in gouache; Campbell’s retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s story allows Delamare to include numerous fantasy images in his illustrations throughout the tale.

American landscape painter Thomas Locker has written and illustrated numerous books for children, most of which include glorious nature scenes and naturalist stories. His “Boys and Grandfather Jump Across” appears in Where the River Begins (1984), the story of a journey two boys take with their grandfather. The painting is done with alkyd and oil, and invokes the majesty of the surrounding landscape. In contrast, Wendell Minor’s “Umiak” from Jean Craighead George’s Julie (1994), the sequel to her 1973 Newbery award-winning Julie of the Wolves, is done with pencil on paper. A umiak is an open boat that is used in the Arctic. It can be paddled but also rowed or sailed. Minor’s illustration presents wonderful detail with his intricate use of line and shading.

Arthur Geisert’s The Ark (1988) is based on biblical text, but his etchings provide wonderful detail and often show cross-sections of the ark complete with the animals inside. This study for the book conveys the vastness of the landscape, as well as the multiplicity of the animals coming on the journey. In contrast, Caldecott Medal-winning author and illustrator David Wisniewski’s “Ah Kin Mai predicts drought” appears in his Rain Player (1991), and shows his characteristic use of cut paper collage to create pictures. The original story, which is set during Mayan times, tells the tale of Pik, boy who challenges the god Chac, the rain god, to a game of pok-a-tok. After he wins, his people and culture flourish.