A Kid in a Candy Store: The Picture Book Art of Seymour Chwast
The legendary career of graphic designer Seymour Chwast spans nearly seven decades. Beginning in 1954, as a co-founder of Push Pin Studios, Chwast and his colleagues revolutionized entire categories of visual culture ranging from book jackets and poster design to product packaging and illustration art across all media.Throughout this fertile period and beyond, Chwast created more than 40 picture books and today, at the age of 92, has more on the way! His profound contributions to graphic design, however, have long overshadowed the picture book side of his career—until now.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is pleased to present Kid in a Candy Store: The Picture Book Art of Seymour Chwast opening November 18 and on view through April 14, 2024. While past shows in the U.S., Europe (including at the Louvre!), Brazil, and Japan have celebrated Chwast’s iconic posters, editorial illustrations, and packaging designs. The Carle is the first venue to focus solely on his picture books for children.
Historian and Carle Museum trustee Leonard S. Marcus curated the exhibition. Marcus writes, “Chwast creates unexpected scenes and populates his stories with witty human, animal, and imaginary characters. Many of his books play with format, encouraging readers to reimagine the traditional reading experience.” Marcus’s essay on Chwast, “The Alphabet and Other Magic Shows You Won’t Want to Miss: The Beguiling Picture Book Art of Seymour Chwast,” will be available on The Carle’s website opening day.
Visitors to the exhibition can see more than 30 original illustrations from nine picture books, along with a selection of hard-to-find first editions. On view are several examples of Chwast’s unconventional book constructions in which he breaks from the standard 32-page picture book. Keeping Daddy Awake on the Way Home from the Beach (1986) folds out into a sweeping panoramic story that measures six feet long. Paper Pets (1993) invites readers to cut and fold three-dimensional paper-toy animals and story characters. The book Traffic Jam (1999) contains a spectacular six-panel center gatefold. And Tall City, Wide Country (2013) asks children to read the book both horizontally and vertically, depending on the story’s setting. Chwast’s first attempts at making “books where things happen” were the lift-flats he created in Mother Goooooose and Limerickricks, two collections of classic nonsense rhymes published in 1971.
Chief Curator Ellen Keiter is excited to showcase this playful side of Chwast’s career. “The exhibition looks at the artist’s creativity from a new angle. Fans of Chwast’s graphic work will find that he approaches children’s books with the same humor, bold colors, and love for typography found in his commercial art.” She says Chwast lent his design expertise to the gallery layout and graphics. “It was important to Seymour that we bring three-dimensionality into the space.” This includes the construction of a video tower (guarded over by a Paper Pet), an accordion book structure built to display The Alphabet Parade (1991), and a guessing game from Where’s My Cat? (2022). Outside the gallery is a visitor photo-op inspired by Moonride (2000). Chwast also designed the exhibition poster available for sale in the Museum’s bookshop.
Chwast is a natural born storyteller who never forgot what it’s like to be a child. Even the title of the exhibition has a tongue-in-cheek backstory: Chwast claims that if his career in graphic design hadn’t worked out, he would have opened a candy store.
A selection* of children’s picture books by Seymour Chwast
The Pancake King, Delacorte, 1970
*Mother Goose, Random House, 1971
*Limerickricks, Push Pin Studios/Random House, 1972
*The Alphabet Parade, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1991
*The 12 Circus Rings, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993
Paper Pets, Abrams, 1993
My Sister Says Nothing Ever Happens When We Go Sailing, Harper, 1986
Keeping Daddy Awake on the Way Home from the Beach, Harper, 1986
Traffic Jam, Hardcourt Mifflin,1999
*Moonride, Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000
*Tall City, Wide Country, Creative Editions, 2013
Doctor Dolittle, Creative Editions, 2015
Bobo’s Smile, Creative Editions, 2021
*Where’s My Cat?, Minedition US, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers, 2022
*Find a Friend, Minedition US, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers, 2023
Little Lessons, Minedition US, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers, 2023
*Original art in the exhibition
About Seymour Chwast
Renowned for a lifetime of innovative graphic design work, Seymour Chwast is a founding partner of Push Pin Studios, known for its iconic posters, editorial illustrations, book and magazine covers, and packaging design. Chwast’s work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. He has been exhibited internationally in Japan and Brazil and had a retrospective at the Louvre’s Musée des Arts Décoratifs in France. Seymour Chwast website
About Leonard S. Marcus
Leonard S. Marcus is the author of more than 25 award-winning books about children’s books and the people who create them, including Margaret Wise Brown: Awakened by the Moon; Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom; You Can’t Say That!; and most recently Pictured Worlds, an international history of the illustrated children’s book. Marcus is a founding trustee of the Eric Carle Museum and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications.
Leonard S. Marcus website
About the Museum
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art is the international champion for picture books. We collect, preserve, and exhibit original illustrations, encourage guests of all ages to read and create art, and foster an ever-growing audience passionate about children’s literature.
The late Eric and Barbara Carle co-founded the Museum in November 2002. Eric Carle was 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 nearly one million visitors. The Carle houses 9,000 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 school children. Bobbie’s Meadow is an outdoor space that combines art and nature. Educational offerings include professional training for educators around the country and master’s degree programs in children’s literature with Simmons University.The Museum offers digital resources, including art activities, book recommendations, collections videos, exhibition videos, as well as workshops for online visitors. Learn more at www.carlemuseum.org and on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram @CarleMuseum.
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