Where the Wild Things Are: Original Drawings by Maurice Sendak
October 6 through November 1, 2009
This special exhibition features original drawings and manuscript pages from the classic children's book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (b. 1928). The show is part of a citywide celebration honoring Mr. Sendak and marking the October 13 premiere of a new Warner Bros. movie adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze.
The exhibition presents a rare opportunity to witness Sendak's creative process—from his early drafts about an unnamed boy in search of wild horses to the well-known narrative about a child named Max taming the beastly "things" of his own imagination. Twelve drawings and two manuscript pages are on view in the Morgan's historic McKim building.
The exhibition includes such iconic images as Max in his wolf suit, grinning in his tree-filled bedroom; his arrival in the land of "wild things"; and his triumphant departure by sailboat. Also on view are a pencil drawing for the cover illustration of a sleeping "wild thing" as well as a preliminary sketch—not incorporated into the final published version—of a mischievous Max on all fours atop the dinner table slurping a strand of spaghetti.
Drawings on tracing paper show Sendak's process of transferring preliminary sketches to another sheet for further development, while manuscript drafts offer a window into the author's composition process. After drafting preliminary text about a boy seeking wild horses, Sendak entreats himself to "Drop this story for time being—I'm forcing it, and it won't be forced." After another try at a story about Max and the wild things—in verse—Sendak writes ALL BAD!!! and goes on to refine the story into the text that has become familiar to millions of readers.
Since its publication in 1963, Where the Wild Things Are has become one of the most beloved of all modern children's books. Like most of Sendak's works, it is partly autobiographical, born of long family dinners in 1930s Brooklyn, favorite monster movies from childhood, and a keen understanding of the importance of fantasy as a way to learn and grow. While the book went on to win a Caldecott Award and has been adapted for the stage and now the screen, Sendak's drawings reveal its most enduring legacy: the ability to convey the innocence and imagination of a child.
The Morgan held exhibitions of Sendak's work in 1981 and 1988, and he recently lent original Jean de Brunhoff drawings from his own collection to the Morgan's 2008 exhibition Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors.
The works on view in the exhibition, on loan from the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia, are part of a group of some ten thousand items by Sendak, including preliminary and finished drawings and manuscripts for over one hundred books, as well as prints, acrylic paintings, hand-made books, publishers' proofs, first and foreign printed editions, and a wide range of ephemera. It is the largest collection of the artist's work in the world.
This exhibition was organized in cooperation with the Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia.
The Morgan thanks NYC & Company and Warner Bros. for their promotional support of this exhibition.