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    Maurice Sendak (American, 1928-2012)
    The Junior Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago poster illustration, 1984
    Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper
    26-7/8 x 23-7/8 inches (68.3 x 60.6 cm) (sheet)
    Signed lower right: Maurice Sendak

    The artist;
    Private collection, New York, acquired from the above, 1995.

    M. Sendak, Posters By Maurice Sendak, New York, 1986, p. 17;
    J. Schiller and D. M. David, Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and His Work, New York, 2013, p. 110, illustrated.

    The preeminent children's book artist of the twentieth century, Maurice Sendak's contribution to the world of children's literature has been profound. With his unique ability to capture the joys, fears, and insecurities of childhood, he has revolutionized the content of children's books, expanding the limits of what is considered appropriate for young people. In recognition of his achievements, Sendak has received numerous awards, including the Hans Christian Andersen International Medal in 1970 for his body of illustration work (he was the first American to be so honored); the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1983 for his "substantial and lasting contribution to children's literature"; and the 1996 National Medal of Arts, awarded by President Bill Clinton. The New York Times reviewer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote, "There is a grandeur and complexity about the pictures that intimidates. They have a quality of nightmare."

    Sendak has produced over a dozen books of his own, and illustrated more than seventy stories by other authors. He is well known both for his distinctive illustrations and for his stories, which explore, in unsentimental terms, how children deal with their fears and emotions through fantasy. The Junior Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago poster illustration encapsulates the childlike giddiness and wonder associated with Sendak, and demonstrates his utter mastery at children's book illustration.

    Maurice Bernard Sendak was born on June 10, 1928 in Brooklyn, New York, the youngest child of Philip and Sarah (Schindler) Sendak. Before World War I, his parents left their Jewish shtetls (small towns) in Poland to come to the United States, where Philip went to work in Manhattan's garment district. From an early age, Maurice's imagination was fueled by the bedtime stories of his father, a dressmaker. Often melancholic and full of fantasy and mythical symbols, they were spun out of East European Jewish folklore. Because he was a sickly child, stricken with measles and pneumonia at the age of two, and scarlet fever at four, Maurice spent a major portion of his childhood at home drawing pictures of the life he observed outside his window. At the age of nine, he started writing stories with his older brother, Jack, and the two hand-lettered and illustrated their work on pieces of shirt cardboard that they bound together with tape.

    Maurice was also drawn to the comic books and movies of pop culture, and was especially fascinated by Mickey Mouse, who was born in the same year as he. During high school, Sendak held a part-time job with All-American Comics, adapting Mutt and Jeff newspaper comic strips to a comic-book format. It was during this time that Sendak taught himself cross-hatching and other techniques from such nineteenth-century illustrators as Wilhelm Busch, Boutet de Monvel, and the Victorian caricaturist George Cruikshank.

    After graduating from high school in 1946, he moved to Manhattan, whose bustling elegance had always attracted him. He found work constructing papier-mâché fairy tale characters for Timely Service, a window-display house. It was during his employment there that Sendak's illustrations were first published, as an accompaniment to Atomics for the Millions (1947), a book written by his high school physics teacher. When a promotion in 1948 removed him from the sort of work he enjoyed, Sendak quit his job and returned home to his parents. Then, "out of a job, out of sorts and money," he spent hours at the window, filling sketchbooks with drawings of Rosie, a ten-year-old girl whom he admired for her ability to imagine herself into being anything she wanted to be.

    In the summer of 1948, Sendak collaborated with his brother Jack, carving and painting six mechanical wooden toys. The brothers brought their creations to the famous New York toy store F.A.O. Schwartz, where store executives admired the toys but felt that they would cost too much to mass-produce. Impressed with Sendak's talent, however, they offered him a job as assistant director of the window-display department, a position he held for the next three years.

    While working at F.A.O. Schwartz, Sendak enrolled in some night classes at the Art Students League, largely to please his father. During a display of his drawings at the store, F.A.O. Schwartz's book buyer invited Ursula Nordstrom, Harper & Row's children's book editor, to stop by. Captivated by Sendak's sketches, Miss Nordstrom immediately hired him to illustrate Marcel Ayme's Wonderful Farm (1951), his first children's book. Thus began a long and fruitful association, a period that Sendak called one of the happiest times of his life. Then came A Hole Is To Dig, by Ruth Krauss, for which he was awarded The New York Times Best Illustrated Book. Working with Ruth Krauss was an inspiration to him, and he learned how to make text and pictures work with each other, and not against. By now, Sendak's reputation as a children's book illustrator was firmly established.

    While Sendak's work was popular, some critics felt that his books were "somewhat derivative." That perception ended abruptly in 1963 with the publication of his Where the Wild Things Are. This highly original work, which remains his best known, features a boy named Max, whose mother sends him to his room without supper for acting like a "wild thing." Max vents his anger by turning his room into a world of wild creatures, which, Sendak has noted, were inspired by the faces of his Jewish relatives.

    Where the Wild Things Are marked a turning point in Sendak's career. He felt that all the work he had done up to that point was merely preparation for creating this work. Its publication, for which he received the coveted Caldecott Medal in 1964, confirmed his place as an internationally famous children's book author-illustrator.

    Sendak's Wild Thing monsters carried over into areas of his oeuvre outside of children's books. In addition to his work in books and in movie set design, Sendak also produced beautiful posters, and these posters are considered an important sub-category of the artist's body of work. Sendak stated that posters "make up a very small part of my picture making...Paradoxically, I have a disproportionate affection for these images." (S. Heller, 'Sendak's Few but Significant Posters,' in Maurice Sendak: A Celebration of the Artist and his Work, New York, 2013, p. 103) For Sendak, posters came easy because "they were painted in rare moments of relaxation...Often they were the happy summing up of conglomerate emotions and ideas that had previously been distilled into picture books and theatrical productions." (Ibid, 103)

    Sendak's posters were rarely occasions to experiment with new material and new methods. Rather, the artist used the extra space to stretch out with his favored characters and allow them a chance to breathe more than they could on book page. Sendak stated: "About the presence of Wild Things in so many of my posters, they are, for better or worse, the best known of my characters and therefore their suitability as poster people seems self-evident to me." (Ibid., 104)

    The present work is a case in point: "Drawing on his Wild Things, Sendak devised a comic tableau of two monsters, one a sculptor and the other the sculpted. It is the perfect evocation of art for children. His characters evoke so much that it would have been a shame not to employ them. [Sendak] wrote that they were consciously 'used to turn a pompous occasion into a simple amusement'...Posters are a distinct genre, but after perusing this small part of Sendak's picture making, it is easy to see that in whatever he created, he has the heat of a poster maker, the eye of a book illustrator, and the soul of an artist." (Ibid., 104)

    The Junior Museum in Chicago, which commissioned the present work, was founded in 1964 by the Women's Board of the Art Institute of Chicago, under the direction of Museum Education. This facility opened with a gallery devoted to exhibitions for school children, and original works of art were an integral part of those installations. Much to Sendak's great pleasure, the present work was created for viewing enjoyment at the Art Institute for both the young, and young at heart, to enjoy. It stands today as not only a prime example of his work in posters, but it exemplifies Sendak's creative genius, as one of the greatest storytellers of all time.

    Condition Report*: Framed under acrylic. Hinged to backing board with archival corners. Buckling throughout the sheet. A few tiny strips of adhesive along the extreme edges, verso. 1/2 x 1/2 inch spot of toning in the lower right corner, not visible in current framing. Extremely mild handling creases to the sheet.
    Framed Dimensions 31.5 X 28.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    5th Friday
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