Amidst the turbulence of 1960s America a quiet revolution took place where few expected it: the world of children’s books. Maurice Sendak was part of a vanguard of writers and illustrators transforming the American picture book and revolutionizing children’s culture in the ‘60s. He illustrated more than 30 books throughout the decade, including the character-driven The Sign on Rosie’s Door(1960), the painterly Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present (1962), and the controversial In the Night Kitchen (1970), as well as the beloved Nutshell Library (1962) and his most celebrated bestseller, Where the Wild Things Are (1963).
We may take these books for granted now but each was experimental in its day, breaking picture book conventions and defying expectations. In between the boldly colorful Wild Things and Night Kitchen, Sendak went through a “black-and-white” period, ignoring color altogether and producing some of his most haunting and nuanced drawings. This period coincided with immense personal losses, including the death of his mother and his beloved dog, as well as his father’s cancer and his own recuperation from a heart attack that nearly killed him. This exhibition is the first to explore how Sendak’s art reflected both social and personal turmoil throughout the decade.