"1990 International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY)," poster design for the conference in Williamsburg, Va., September 1990. Signed and dated 1988. Watercolor. 55 x 42.5cm (21 5/8 x 16 3/4in). Matted and framed.
The Brooklyn-born artist and author is today internationally acknowledged to be the most important force in juvenile literature since World War II. In 1964, at age 36, he received the coveted Caldecott Medal for his masterpiece Where the Wild Things Are. The American Library Association has since named two other works Caldecott Honor Books. In 1970, the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) awarded him the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, often referred to as the Nobel Prize for Children's Literature. He is the only American illustrator to be so recognized. Among his many other honors are the National Book Award in 1982, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1983, the National Medal of the Arts in 1996 and the very first Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2003. Retrospectives of his work have exhibited in major museums and libraries all over the world.
A largely self-taught artist, Sendak freely acknowledges his debt to many other artists including Rowlandson, Caldecott and Winslow Homer. However he has developed a playfulness and sense of fantasy all his own.
While he has been universally cited for the importance of his children's books, few critics have also noted what a superb watercolorist Maurice Sendak is. That may be because so much of his work has been color separated. Since the 1970s, he has donated all of his published work for books to the Rosenbach Foundation in Philadelphia. The few that have come on the market have been mainly preliminary sketches and discarded efforts. His design for the poster promoting the 1990 IBBY Conference in Williamsbury, Va. is unquestionably the most accomplished finished watercolor and arguably the most important work by Sendak to ever come to auction. It is unusually large for a Sendak work as he generally works to scale. He was so fired up by the commission that he completed it two years in advance of the meeting and produced one of his most compelling works of art.
Sendak's unique vision is abundantly apparent in his sly Ibby design. It depicts three of his greatest characters: Max, the hero of Where the Wild Things Are, has captured the attention of Alligator from Alligators All Around of The Nutshell Library and Moishe, the best known of the Wild Things and the one most identified with Sendak himself. These two, just like little children, are rather rough on their books: Alligator contentedly marks up his volume with his footprints and Moishe literally devours his.
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