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Children's Book Illustrators to Showcase in Summer Exhibit at Thorne Gallery

An illustration by Leonard Weisgard from thechildrens book The Golden Christmas Tree
An illustration by Leonard Weisgard from thechildrens book The Golden Christmas Tree

KEENE, N.H., 5/21/08 - Leonard Weisgard, an award-wining illustrator of children’s books, will be showcased along with other artists who illustrate children’s books in the summer exhibition at the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College.

“Leonard Weisgard and Others: An Illustrator’s Journey,” which will include works from the KSC Children’s Literature Festival Gallery Collection and the Thorne’s permanent collection, will be open Saturday, June 7, through Sunday, July 27, at the gallery. The Friends of the Thorne will host a reception on Friday, June 13, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. that will include a 6 p.m. half-hour lecture by Leonard Marcus, author of the books Beyond the Great Green Room and Golden Legacy.

The exhibit will present an overview of Weisgard’s illustrations from 22 books, including adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Cinderella. He illustrated more than 200 children’s books and was in the forefront of this genre. The afterglow of his influence can still be seen in children’s books today.

Weisgard was best known for his collaboration with author Margaret Wise Brown. Their seminal book series began with The Noisy Book. Weisgard and Wise Brown used words, colors, shapes, and composition to illustrate childhood experiences, drawing on Wise Brown’s research, which explored early childhood development at the Bank Street School in New York City.

Weisgard’s visual imagery was heavily influenced by the avant-garde modernist movement in the fine art world. Through stories and illustrations that reflected the many sensations a child experiences daily, a new kind of children’s book emerged.

Weisgard and Wise Brown’s 1945 book, The Little Island, which Wise Brown wrote under the pseudonym Golden MacDonald, won the Caldecott Medal for best-illustrated children’s book. The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children published in the United States during the preceding year.

Weisgard, who studied art at the Pratt Institute and the New School for Social Research, both in New York City, published his first book, Suki, the Siamese Pussy, in 1937 and continued illustrating books through 1989. Weisgard went on to work with other authors and wrote a handful of books himself.

“Leonard Weisgard and Others: An Illustrator’s Journey” will include 24 selections from the KSC Children’s Literature Festival Gallery Collection of original illustrations, working drawings, and pieces related to children’s book illustration. Begun in November 1990 by Professor David White, creator of the Children’s Literature Festival, this permanent collection includes original illustrations, working drawings, and pieces related to children’s book illustration. It currently contains hundreds of pieces by 95 artists. The pieces chosen for this exhibit show how illustrations begin as sketches or paintings and transform before the final product is created. The pieces on exhibit include work by three Caldecott award winners: David Wiesner, Barbara Cooney, and Trina Schart Hyman. Two other illustrators, Fiona French and P. J. Lynch, received the Kate Greenaway Medal, the British equivalent of the Caldecott Medal.

Also on exhibit from the Thorne’s permanent collection are illustrations of Russian fairy tales, which show how a complete story can be told through a single image.

The exhibit, reception, and lecture are free and open to the public. During the summer, the gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. and is closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and on July 4.

The gallery is accessible to people with disabilities. To request accommodations for a disability, please call the gallery at least two weeks before your visit. For information, call 603-358-2720 or visit

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