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children's book illustration

The 1960s and Beyond

During the 1960s a number of seldom-used techniques were introduced, and color printing was much improved. Drawing was freed from the constraints of realistic representation, and fantastic imagery flourished. Photography enriched texts, as in Astrid Sucksdorff's Chendru (1960). Illustrations combining graphic art and collage graced Ezra Jack Keats's The Snowy Day (1962) and Leo Lionni's Inch by Inch (1960). Outstanding folk and fairy tales in a picture-book format include Adrienne Adams's Shoemaker and the Elves (1960) and Evaline Ness's Tom Tit Tot (1965).

A landmark in illustrated books of the 1960s is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (1963), depicting a surreal and menacing world of make-believe creatures. Sendak's Higgelty Piggelty Pop; or, There Must Be More to Life (1967) is a fantasy reminiscent of Tenniel's work. His In the Night Kitchen (1970) depicts a dream world in robust detail; it was the first children's book to portray nudity. Sendak's style has had a profound influence on contemporary illustration, as in Harriet Pincus's droll figures for Carl Sandburg's The Wedding Procession of the Rag Doll and the Broom Handle and Who Was in It (1967) and Mercer Mayer's comic A Boy, a Dog, a Frog, and a Friend (1967). Mayer's book spawned a number of books in which the story is carried entirely by pictures.

In the mid-1960s a new kind of picture book emerged in which the illustrations dominate the text. Ben Montresor's illustrations for Cinderella (1965) and for Stephen Spender's The Magic Flute (1966) are based on his opera stage designs and incorporate the glittering color of that medium. Brian Wildsmith made expressive use of intense, jewellike colors for many works including La Fontaine's The Lion and the Rat (1963) and Little Wood Duck (1972). Eric Carle's bright, bold collages made from painted tissue paper debuted in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (1967), and his Very Hungry Caterpillar (1967) has become a preschool classic. Among artists who choose to interpret a single type of book to which their styles are best suited, is Nancy Ekholm Burkert, whose specialty is fantasy and fairy tales; in Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs (1972) her sweeping design and minute detail recall the works of Rackham. Margot and Harve Zemach illustrate and retell folk stories, including the rollicking Duffy and the Devil (1973).

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. The 1980s and 90s produced a number of remarkable illustrators as well, including Chris van Allsburg, Barry Moser, Jerry Pinkney, Alice and Martin Provensen, Trina Schart Hyman, Susan Jeffers, and Jeanette Winter.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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