Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings

An Artist’s Exploration of Images and Words

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About the Exhibition

Across his fifty-year journey as an illustrator, Jerry Pinkney has cast a warm, curious eye on our world to create transcendent images that reflect his passion for life, his love of family and community, and his deep and abiding engagement with the rich complexities of history. A master watercolorist with a distinct personal message to convey, he reminds us that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted, in elegant images that celebrate life’s small but extraordinary moments, the wonders of classic literature, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

Initially created for the covers and pages of periodicals, postage stamps, greeting cards, product advertisements, and well-traveled historic sites rather than the walls galleries and museums, Pinkney’s artworks have also appeared in more than one hundred illustrated books, garnering well-deserved acclaim. Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings explores the artist’s lifelong engagement with literature, and the process of creating meaningful visual solutions that expand and enliven the narrative for readers of all ages.

The Lion and the Mouse (2009)
Cover illustration for The Lion and the Mouse
Watercolor on paper. Collection of the artist

Artist Statement

I have a strong interest in why artists choose particular forms through which to express themselves. I chose book illustrations because I thrive on creating thought-provoking and engaging solutions for a text. In addition to enlivening the narrative visually with my artwork, it’s important to me to provide an opportunity for the reader to appreciate different ways of living, widening the sense of a place, and often, its historical context.

By grappling with my own interpretation of the world the writer creates, I grow as an artist and individual. This exhibition speaks to the meaning of the paintings themselves, and to the bookmaking process—from selecting projects that fit my artistic yearnings, to research, developmental sketches, photographing models, preparatory drawings, the finished illustrations, and at last, the bound book, which serves as both a historical object and work of art.

About Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney is an award-winning artist who began his creative journey in the field of illustration in 1960.

A native of Philadelphia, he studied at the Philadelphia College of Art, began his career as a graphic designer and greeting card artist, and has been illustrating children’s books since 1964. His art has appeared in more than one hundred books, garnering well-deserved acclaim. The recipient of a Caldecott Medal, five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards and four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, Pinkney has received many commendations for his outstanding body of work, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators in New York and an Artist Laureate Award from the Norman Rockwell Museum. His illustrated books have been translated into many languages and published in fourteen different countries.

In addition to his work in children’s books, Pinkney has created illustrations for a wide variety of clients, including the U.S. Postal Service, National Park Service, and National Geographic. He served on the U.S. Postal Services Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee for ten years, from 1982 to 1992, and in 2003, was appointed to the National Endowment for the Arts/NEA, a prestigious position held by the artist for six years. A gifted educator, he has mentored aspiring illustrators at Pratt Institute, the University of Delaware, and the New York State University at Buffalo. The recipient of Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University and the Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, he has created artworks that are among the collections of The Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Delaware Art Museum, and the Brandywine River Art Museum.

Jerry Pinkney in his studio.

Jerry Pinkney in his studio.
Photograph of Jerry Pinkney by Thomas Kristich, 2008
©2008 Jerry Pinkney Studio. All rights reserved.

Jerry Pinkney in his studio.

Jerry Pinkney in his studio.
Photograph of Jerry Pinkney by Thomas Kristich, 2008
©2008 Jerry Pinkney Studio. All rights reserved.

Bringing Classic Stories and Folk Tales to Life

During his childhood, Jerry Pinkney’s parents, who migrated to Philadelphia from the South, read and retold classic folk tales in rhythmic cadences that captured his imagination, providing a sense of cultural belonging. The legend of John Henry, Uncle Remus tales and the adventures of Brer Rabbit, and the classic story of The Ugly Duckling, all illustrated by the artist later in life, were among his favorites. Helen Bannerman’s The Story of Little Black Sambo was treasured among the books in his family’s library, despite its critical reevaluation. “The tale of a small boy of color who exhibited courage and wit, and triumphed over something much larger than himself,” was both appealing and affirming. These stories most often had a lesson, and they were told with the whole body, animated by laughter or punctuated with frowns, each teller embellishing tales told many times before. “I needed those stories—they filled a place in my daydreaming world and fired up my imagination. With no television or other modern entertainment, reciting stories to one another was a beloved pastime, and one shared by parents, relatives, neighbors…my whole community.”

In the 1970s, the artist began creating imagery for the Franklin Library, illustrating thirteen novels from the cannon of English literature, including Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, The Covenant by James A. Michener, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. They are featured here alongside Their Eyes Were Watching God, “ which I consider the exhibition’s centerpiece. The art is all about the drawing—my passion—and it served as a vehicle to express my interest and deep respect for its author, Zora Neale Hurston, and her groundbreaking work.

Digital Gallery Tour

This exhibition features an 18-stop digital gallery tour that includes 12 audio overviews with music soundtracks narrated and curated by Jerry Pinkney.

Visit the Digital Gallery Tour

Jerry Pinkney Digital Tour
Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings Family Guide
Download the Now!

Family Guide

Across his fifty-five-year journey as an illustrator, Jerry Pinkney has cast a warm, curious eye on our world to create images that reflect his passion for life, his love of family and community, and his deep engagement with the rich complexities of history. His award-winning illustrations have appeared in more than one hundred books. Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings reflects the artist’s love of literature, and the process of creating meaningful visual solutions that expand and enliven a narrative.

We hope you will enjoy this guide to Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings, which features artworks inspired by classic and contemporary literature, and by well-loved folk tales and fairy tales. It includes looking, writing, and drawing activities to experience in the galleries and at home.

Stephanie Haboush Plunkett
Deputy Director/Chief Curator
Norman Rockwell Museum

Family Traditions

Jerry and Gloria Jean Pinkney raised their young family, opportunities to illustrate picture books emerged, and the artist challenged himself to create true authenticity in his art. During the 1960s, the unwritten conventions of mid-century that avoided depictions of ethnicity in published art began to fall away, inspired by public demand for more inclusive cultural representations. As a father and as an illustrator striving to avoid stereotype, he began to understand art’s power to construct perceptions about race and society.

Family loomed large in important mid-career works that opened a window onto the everyday lives of African Americans, and Pinkney’s empathetic depictions reflected his own compassionate nature. His illustrations for The Patchwork Quilt, Valerie Flournoy’s poignant 1985 story about the intergenerational bonds within an African American family, were pivotal. The book’s appearance on PBS television’s

Reading Rainbow, which promoted quality literature for children, shared its message widely and signified success. In the 1990s, Back Home and The Sunday Outing, two books written by the artist’s wife, Gloria Jean Pinkney, brought family memories and traditions to light. In this exhibition, Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog, Jr.’s swing spiritual, God Bless the Child, was the inspiration for Pinkney’s moving depiction of one family’s move north during the Great Migration of the 1930s—something his family, too, had experienced.

Curriculum

Curriculum (Grades 6-12): Making Positive Change

Build writing skills, media literacy, and civic responsibility as you explore ways that Jerry Pinkney helped to diversify children’s literature.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Goals:

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  • Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Curriculum (Grades, K-5): Heros

Build literacy skills and social responsibility as you explore ways that Jerry Pinkney helped to diversify children’s literature.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Goals:

  • Practice Close Reading
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis and reflection

Curriculum (Grades K-5): Picturing Words

Build comprehension skills as you investigate Jerry Pinkney’s process as an illustrator.

Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Goals:

  • Practice Close Reading
  • Interpret words and phrases in a text
  • Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats

Events

 

There are no upcoming events currently scheduled for this exhibition.

Media

Imaginings: An Afternoon with Jerry Pinkney

ARTIST LAUREATE HONORARY LECTURE
Recorded: June 18, 2016

Norman Rockwell Museum

2016 © Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings – Exhibition Video

Across his fifty-year journey as an illustrator, Jerry Pinkney has cast a warm, curious eye on our world to create transcendent images that reflect his passion for life, his love of family and community, and his deep and abiding engagement with the rich complexities of history. A master watercolorist with a distinct personal message to convey, he reminds us that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted, in elegant images that celebrate life’s small but extraordinary moments, the wonders of classic literature, and the wisdom of those who have gone before us.

2016 © Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings – The Artistic Process

Initially created for the covers and pages of periodicals, postage stamps, greeting cards, product advertisements, and well-traveled historic sites rather than the walls galleries and museums, Pinkney’s artworks have also appeared in more than one hundred illustrated books, garnering well-deserved acclaim. “Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings” explores the artist’s lifelong engagement with literature, and the process of creating meaningful visual solutions that expand and enliven the narrative for readers of all ages.

2016 © Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings – Personification in Art

2016 © Norman Rockwell Museum. All rights reserved.

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Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney

Exhibition Catalog: Witness: The Art of Jerry Pinkney
$21.95

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Ninety-six page catalog to accompany the Norman Rockwell Museum’s retrospective exhibition tracing illustrator Jerry Pinkney’s 50-year career producing some of the most highly acclaimed children’s books of our time. This catalog is filled with wonderful color illustrations and with essays by Jerry Pinkney, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Dr. Gerald L. Early, Steven Heller, Leonard S. Marcus, and Dr. Joyce K. Schiller.

The Ugly Ducking

The Ugly Duckling (Caldecott Honor Book)
$12.87

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For over one hundred years The Ugly Duckling has been a childhood favorite, and Jerry Pinkney’s spectacular new adaptation brings it triumphantly to new generations of readers. With keen emotion and fresh vision, the acclaimed artist captures the essence of the tale’s timeless appeal: The journey of the awkward little bird — marching bravely through hecklers, hunters, and cruel seasons — is an unforgettable survival story; this blooming into a graceful swan is a reminder of the patience often necessary to discover true happiness. Splendid watercolors set in the lush countryside bring drama to life.

Sam and the Tigers

Sam and the Tigers
$6.99

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“Once upon a time there was a place called Sam-sam-sa-mara, where the animals and the people lived and worked together like they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to. There was a little boy in Sam-sam-sa-mara named Sam…” So begins this delightful telling of one of the most controversial books in children’s literature, Little Black Sambo. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney reveal at the heart of this story a lively and charming tale of a little boy who triumphs over several hungry tigers. “Lester and Pinkney have stripped away the ugly racism and…reclaimed a great classic for children. The expansive black storytelling voice is both folksy and contemporary, funny and fearful.” –Booklist

God Bless the Child

God Bless the Child
$15.90

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The song “God Bless the Child” was first performed by legendary jazz vocalist Billie Holiday in 1939 and remains one of her enduring masterpieces. In this picture book interpretation, renowned illustrator Jerry Pinkney has created images of a family moving from the rural South to the urban North during the Great Migration. This extraordinary book stands as a tribute to all those men and women who dared so much to get their own.

Noah

Noah’s Ark
$11.32

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For 40 days and 40 nights rain poured from the heavens, enveloping the world. Only Noah had been warned by God of the great floodand only Noah could save life on earth. This powerful story of salvation has fascinated people of all ages for centuries. Now, four-time Caldecott Honor-recipient Jerry Pinkney captures all the courage, drama, and beauty of this ancient parable in rich, glorious paintings. Full of sensitive detail and emotion, his art brings new life and meaning to an important message of peace. This elegant edition of Noah’s Ark promises to give readers strength and hope for many years to come.

Little Match Girl

Little Match Girl
$6.99

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The luminous art of three-time Caldecott Honor recipient Jerry Pinkney transforms the nineteenth-century Danish girl of Andersen’s tale into a child plucked straight from America’s melting pot, shedding new light on the invisibility of the poor among the prosperous-a circumstance as familiar in Andersen’s day as it is in our own.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God
$25.90

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Initially published in 1937, this novel about a proud, independent black woman has, since its reissue in trade paper in 1978, been the most widely readand highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature. With this richly illustrated new edition, the novel is finally accorded the treatment it deserves as a classic.

The Old African

The Old African
$6.99

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No one on the plantation had ever heard the Old African’s voice, yet he had spoken to all of them in their minds. For the Old African had the power to see the color of a person’s soul and read his thoughts as if they were words on a page. Now it was time to act—time to lead his fellow slaves to the Water-That-Stretched-Forever, and from there back to Africa. Back to their home.

Based on legend and infused with magical realism, this haunting tale is beautiful in both its language and its images. Julius Lester and Jerry Pinkney have found a new, extraordinary way to express the horrors of slavery and the hope and strength that managed to overcome its grip.

The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus

The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus
$32.13

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Brer Rabbit is causing trouble again for his fellow creatures Brer Fox, Brer Wolf, and the rest–this time in an omnibus edition that brings together all the stories from Tales of Uncle RemusMore Tales of Uncle RemusFurther Tales of Uncle Remus, and Last Tales of Uncle Remus.

The Uncle Remus tales, originally written down by Joel Chandler Harris, were first published over a hundred years ago, and serve as the largest collection of African-American folklore. In this four-book series, Julius Lester masterfully retains the flavor of the tales, while dropping the heavy dialect of the Harris originals and adding contemporary language and references– ensuring that the stories will be understood and enjoyed by new generations of readers. And, of course, the stories are beautifully illuminated by the slyly humorous full-color and black-and-white art of Jerry Pinkney. The result is a treasure of a volume that will delight all ages and belongs on every shelf.

Aesops Fables

Aesop’s Fables
$14.37

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In this elegantly designed volume, more than sixty of Aesop’s timeless fables have been carefully selected, humorously retold, and brought gloriously to life by four-time Caldecott Honor-winner Jerry Pinkney. Included are the Shepherd Boy and The Wolf, the Lion and the Mouse, the Tortoise and the Hare, plus many other charactersand moralsthat have inspired countless readers for centuries. With more than fifty magnificent full-color illustrations, this handsome edition is a must for every bookshelf.

The Lion and the Mouse

The Lion and the Mouse
$32.13

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In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.

John Henry

John Henry
$7.99

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John Henry is stronger than ten men, and can dig through a mountain faster than a steam drill. Julius Lester’s folksy retelling of a popular African-American folk ballad has warmth, tall tale humor, and boundless energy. Jerry Pinkney illustrates the story with “rich colors borrowed from the rocks and the earth, so beautiful that they summon their own share of smiles and tears” (Booklist).

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
$35.86

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Following on the brilliant success of The Little Match Girl and his fourth Caldecott Honor Book, The Ugly Duckling, Jerry Pinkney brings us another enchanting adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The Nightingale is the story of a plain little bird whose beautiful songs bring her great fame, even winning her an esteemed place in the king’s court. Eventually, however, after saving the life of the king, the modest nightingale chooses to return to her peaceful life in the forest. Although the original tale is set in China, Jerry Pinkney decided to add a unique twist to his own adaptation by moving the setting to Morocco-and the resulting artwork is spectacular. The lush, elaborate watercolor illustrations feature the diverse peoples, rich costumes, and amazing architecture of Northwest Africa, making this version of The Nightingale a true picture book original!

Puss in Boots

Puss in Boots
$7.99

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For generations, children have been enchanted by the tale of the clever cat in fancy boots who outsmarts a king and a sorcerer to win a castle and a bride for his penniless master. The humor, the magic, and a lush Renaissance setting are all on glorious display, and a well-placed gatefold adds to the drama. This elegant new edition of Charles Perrault’s folktale is essential for every child’s library. Read it in tandem with other Pinkney classic picture books like The Little Red Hen and The Lion and the Mouse.

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
$7.99

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Here is the thrilling story of Rikki, a fearless young mongoose who finds himself locked in a life-and-death struggle to protect a boy and his parents from Nag and Nagaina, the two enormous cobras who stalk the gardens outside the familys home in India. Nobel Prize winner Rudyard Kiplings timeless masterpiece has been lovingly passed from one generation of readers to the next. Triumphantly brought to life in stunning watercolors from Caldecott Honor artist Jerry Pinkney, this is a tale that will win the hearts of young and old alike.

The Talking Eggs

The Talking Eggs
$12.94

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The author of such delights as The Christmas Ark and The Enchanted Tapestry joins forces with illustrator Pinkney to resurrect a colorful folktale that captures the unique flavor of the American South. A 1989 Caldecott Honor Book.

These 13

These 13
$58.94

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Press

The Lion and the Mouse
The Lion and the Mouse
Image Credit: Jerry Pinkney

PARADE chooses The Lion and the Mouse as one of the best 75 books in 75 years

June 27, 2016

The rich and textured images speak for themselves in this wordless children’s book that recreates Aesop’s fable about the Lion and Mouse. The award-winning Pinkney is one of the great illustrators of our time.

More Information
Jerry Pinkney in his studio.
Jerry Pinkney in his studio.
Photograph of Jerry Pinkney by Thomas Kristich, 2008
©2008 Jerry Pinkney Studio. All rights reserved.

Jerry Pinkney is the recipient of the 2016 Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement

January 11, 2016

“Accomplished artist and illustrator Jerry Pinkney constructs books which explore cultural experiences and ethnic identity. This dynamic process offers amazing insight, remarkable skill, and distinctive style. Through the visual life of his illustrations, Pinkney has created a vast and broad legacy for child and adult audiences,” stated Awards Jury Chair Dr. Darwin L. Henderson.

In selecting Jerry Pinkney, the Jury observes that his illustrations detail a world that resonates with readers long after the pages of a book have been turned. His five decades of work offer compelling artistic insights into the legacy of African American storytelling and experience. Beyond Pinkney’s technical brilliance, his support of differentiated learning through art and of young illustrators sets him apart as both artist and educator. His powerful illustrations have redefined the scope of the sophisticated picture book and its use with multiple levels of learners.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Award

Jerry Pinkney wins 2016 Wilder Award Achievement

January 11, 2016

Author and Illustrator Jerry Pinkney is the winner of the 2016 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award honoring an author or illustrator, published in the United States, whose books have made a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children. His numerous works include [Julius Lester’s] “John Henry” (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1994) and [Patricia C. McKissack’s] “Mirandy and Brother Wind (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009).

The award was announced today, during the American Library Association (ALA) Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Boston. The award is administered annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the ALA, and is named for its first recipient in 1954.

“Jerry Pinkney is an extraordinary visual storyteller. His subjects illuminate the African-American experience, the joys of classic literature, and the age-old wisdom embodied in familiar folktales,” said Wilder Award Committee Chair Chrystal Carr Jeter.

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Venues Hosting This Exhibition

Upcoming Venues

Upcountry History Museum, Furman University, Greenville, SC, February 23 – May 26, 2019  

Host this exhibition at your venue.  See below.

Past Venues

Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery at Lebanon Valley College
North White Oak and Church Streets
Annville, PA 17003

Exhibition Dates:
January 15, 2016 – March 13, 2016

Host this Exhibition

Contact Information:

Mary Melius
Manager of Traveling Exhibitions

413-931-2245
TravExhibits@nrm.org

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Across his fifty-year journey as an illustrator, Jerry Pinkney has cast a warm, curious eye on our world to create images that reflect his passion for life, his love of family and community, and his deep and abiding engagement with the rich complexities of history. Initially created for the covers and pages of periodicals, postage stamps, greeting cards, product advertisements, and well-traveled historic sites, Pinkney’s artworks have also appeared in more than one hundred books, garnering well-deserved acclaim. Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings explores the artist’s engagement with literature, and the process of creating meaningful visual solutions that expand and enliven a narrative. Artworks inspired by classic and contemporary literature, and by well-loved folk tales and fairy tales, will be on view.

The recipient of the 2010 Caldecott Medal, as well as five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards, and four Coretta Scott King Honor Awards, Pinkney has received many commendations for his outstanding body of work, including the Original Art’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Illustrators, in 2006 and two Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Library Association, The Virginia Hamilton Award and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 2016. Always wishing to give back, he served on the United States Postal Service Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee for 10 years, from 1982 to 1992, and in 2003, was appointed to the National Council on the Arts/NEA, where he became an influential advocate for arts

“I am a storyteller at heart. There is something special about knowing that your stories can alter the way people see the world, and their place within it.”

– Jerry Pinkney

Always rooting for the underdog, he continues to make images that bear witness to an underlying belief that all things are possible. Reaching beyond their aesthetic and conceptual underpinnings, his vibrant illustrations reveal larger truths about who we are and who we might become.

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