Norman Rockwell Museum Exhibition to Showcase Donated Illustration Art Collection
from “The King of Cartoons”
William Steig: Love and Laughter
on View June 12 through October 31, 2010
Press images available upon request
Stockbridge, MA, May 10, 2010- Once named the “King of Cartoons” by Newsweek magazine, William Steig (1907-2003) is renowned for his uproarious comic art, and such best-selling illustrated books as the
Caldecott-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Shrek! (the inspiration for the blockbuster DreamWorks animated films). A new exhibition explores the breadth of this true American master’s inspired career, from his earliest New Yorker cartoons to his buoyant magazine covers and brilliantly funny reflections on love and life. Accompanying the artist’s work will be a collection of three-dimensional sculptures and assemblages created by Jeanne Steig, a gifted artist and author, and William Steig’s wife of 35 years. The installation reveals the joys of their creative co-habitation and the emergence of themes in both artists’ work which speak to their shared vision. William Steig: Love and Laughter is on view at Norman Rockwell Museum from June 12 through October 31, 2010.
Norman Rockwell Museum is also honored to announce the donation of an impressive collection of more than 800 original artworks by William Steig to the Museum’s permanent collection of illustration art. This generous gift of works spanning the artist’s seven-decade career is made possible by Jeanne Steig, who wishes to share her husband’s art though ongoing public access and preservation. “We are honored to become the custodians of this important collection of works by a true visionary in the field of illustration,” notes Museum Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “For over seventy years, William Steig made America laugh while offering thoughtful commentary on life’s joys and challenges. Our sincere thanks to Jeanne Steig for sharing her husband’s great gift with us, which will become a cherished part of our permanent illustration collection.” “The Board of Trustees is honored that Jeanne Steig has chosen Norman Rockwell Museum as a home for an important selection of William Steig’s art,” announced Thomas L. Pulling, Chairman of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Steig was a master observer of daily life and human interrelations, and his art complements those same qualities in our Rockwell collections.” “William Steig made me laugh, too,” notes Jeanne Steig from her home in Boston, Massachusetts. “His drawings- which he sometimes referred to as doodles- offered an endless, tender commentary on life in the city. They will make a perfect pairing with the work of Norman Rockwell- equally tender and observant- of life in a small town. I’m
delighted to be able to combine these two wonderful bodies of work under one museum roof.”
During his lifetime, William Steig created more than 1600 hundred drawings and one hundred seventeen covers for The New Yorker, and authored and illustrated more than twenty children’s picture books, often with an existential bent. “I think I feel a little differently than other people do. For some reason I’ve never felt grown up,” observed the artist. “Steig was a keen observer of the world around him,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Deputy Director Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, who curated the exhibition with the assistance of curators Corry Kanzenberg and Joyce K. Schiller. “He was a gifted draftsman with an exceptional ability to communicate universally understood concepts in a single image.”
William Steig: Love and Laughter shines a light on several key stages in Steig’s artistic career: from his early gag cartoons for The New Yorker; the stream-of-consciousness symbolic artworks influenced by his ongoing fascination with psychology and Pablo Picasso; to his later works as a beloved author and with llustrator of children’s books and novels. The exhibition examines recurrent themes in both artists works– from the wonders of childhood to the intricacies of friendship and romance– with inspiration drawn from mythology and classic literature. Featured works are generously donated to Norman Rockwell Museum by Jeanne Steig, and the Museum is grateful to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art for loaning original drawings from Shrek! and Alpha Beta Chowder, a book illustrated by William Steig, and illustrated by his wife Jeanne.
About William Steig
Born in Brooklyn on November 14, 1907, William Steig was the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, a family of artists who nurtured his creative gifts from an early age. As a child, he dabbled in painting and drawing, and was an avid reader of literature. After attending high school, he spent two years at City College in New York, three years at the National Academy of Design, and a mere five days at Yale School of Fine Arts. To help support his family during the Great Depression, Steig began shopping his drawings around to publishers, eventually landing a gig at The New Yorker. His Small Fry cartoon series, depicting children in extraordinary situations inspired by his own childhood growing up in the Bronx, became a regular feature in the magazine, and were subsequently published in a number of popular cartoon collections. In 1939, Steig released the first of a collection of “symbolic drawings” inspired by psychoanalysis and modern art, which pushed the boundaries of cartoon art. The illustrator continued to experiment with artistic style and subject matter, becoming a highly influential commentator on man’s everyday struggles, foibles, and matters of the heart.
In 1968, Steig was approached by fellow New Yorker artist Bob Kraus to
contribute a illustrated book to his new publishing line. The wordplay-based CDB! heralded the start of a successful career as a children’s book author and illustrator, and included such thoughtful, adventurous tales as Roland the Minstrel Pig (1968); the Caldecott Award-winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble (1969); Dominic (1972); Abel’s Island (1976); The Amazing Bone (1976); the Newbery Award-winning Doctor De Soto (1982); and Shrek! (1990), which has been adapted into a highly successful animated movie series, and a Broadway play. Steig passed away on October 3, 2003, leaving behind his wife and fellow artist Jeanne; son Jeremy (a jazz flutist) and daughters Lucinda and Margit, from previous marriages, and stepchildren William James and Teryl Euvremer. His original artworks are featured in the permanent collections of many noted museums including Norman Rockwell Museum, Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Brooklyn Museum, and Chicago Art Institute, among others.
About Jeanne Steig
A native of Chicago, Jeanne Steig is the author of several books of light verse and two books of prose, including Consider the Lemming, a Parent’s Choice Remarkable Book; The Old Testament Made Easy; Alpha Beta Chowder; A Handful of Beans, a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book; and A Gift from Zeus: Sixteen Favorite Myths, a Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year. All were illustrated by William Steig, with the exception of Tales from Gizzard’s Grill, illustrated by Sandy Turner, and Fleas!, illustrated by Britt Spenser. Her latest book, The Lost Art of William Steig, will be published by Harry N. Abrams next year.
Jeanne Steig is also a self-taught visual artist, working almost exclusively with street finds and other discarded materials. Her vibrant dimensional artworks have been exhibited widely over the past 35 years.
Exhibition Related Programs and Events
A Member’s Exhibition Opening for William Steig: Love and Laughter will be held on Saturday, June 12, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Artist Jeanne Steig will offer commentary about her husband’s life and career starting at 7:15 p.m., followed by a festive evening of music, dancing, and conversation; refreshments and a cash bar will be served. Free for Museum members, $25 for non-members. RSVP requested by June 7, by calling 413.298.4100, ext. 221.
Uncommon Treasures: An Evening with Jeanne Steig
Thursday, July 8, 5:30 p.m.
Spend an evening with Jeanne Steig, a self-taught visual artist working almost exclusively in street finds and other discarded materials. The author of several books of light verse and prose including Alpha Beta Chowder; A Handful of Beans, a New York Times Best Illustrated Book; and A Gift from Zeus: Sixteen Favorite Myths, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and New York Times Notable Book, Ms. Steig is the widow of noted illustrator William Steig, and her art is currently on view in William Steig: Love & Laughter. Free with Museum admission.
SuperSteig Day! Festivities for Families
Saturday, July 24, 1 to 4 p.m.
Join us for an afternoon of family fun with Jeanne Steig, whose inspired creations assembled from found objects are sure to delight. Mrs. Steig, whose dimensional creations are on view, will help you turn trash into treasures during a lively art workshop for all ages. Storytelling with Ann Underland, music, interactive gallery adventures and more will celebrate William Steig: Love and Laughter and the art of the beloved illustrator. Kids free to age 18, adults free with Museum admission.
Comic Genius: An Evening with Cartoonist Liza Donnelly
Thursday, August 12, 5:30 p.m.
Explore the art of The New Yorker through the eyes of its ingenious comic creators. A cartoonist for the magazine for more than 25 years, Liza Donnelley will share the best illustrated jokes, gag cartoons, and slice-of-life drawings, offering a rare first-hand glimpse of the creative process. Ms. Donnelley’s latest book, When Do They Serve the Wine, along with Funny Ladies, Sex and Sensibility, and Cartoon Marriage, will be available for signing at a reception with the artist following the program. Free with Museum admission.
The Naked Cartoonist: An Evening with Robert Mankoff
Thursday, August 19, 5:30 p.m.
Join New Yorker cartoon editor Robert Mankoff for an uproarious look at
the art of humor. One of the nation’s leading comic commentators, Mr. Mankoff originated The Cartoon Bank and the Cartoon Caption Contest, and is the creator of the magazine’s best-loved comic images. A regular guest on The Daily Show, he is also the author of The Naked Cartoonist: A New Way
to Enhance Your Creativity, The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker, and many other cartoon collections. A book-signing and reception with the artist will follow the program. Free with Museum admission.
Laugh Out Loud! Festivities for Families
Saturday, August 14, 1 to 4 p.m.
Laugh along with your children in this Shrek-alicious family festival filled with music, storytelling, and art-making inspired by the art of William Steig. Kids free to age 18, adults free with Museum admission.
Rotten Island! A Halloween Bash
Sunday, October 31, 2 to 4 p.m.
For ages 6 and up
Celebrate the art of William Steig and a cast of extraordinary characters, from his villains on Rotten Island to well-loved friends from Shrek!, Dr. DeSoto, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Mary Jo Maichack’s Halloween tales, featuring everything from Hungarian ghosts to goofy vampire jokes, will be sure to delight with just the right amount of fright. Art activities and seasonal treats will be served. $6, $5 for Museum members.