Part of my childhood, as many children growing up in the North, was Ezra Jack Keats’ most famous offering, Snowy Day. We looked forward to snow days (myself included!), often resulting the cancellation of school during the end of January or beginning of February. Keats’ illustrations capture the wonderment of the snowy landscape on these joyous days.
Beginning on September 9, the first major U.S. exhibition to pay tribute to the award-winning author and illustrator will open at the Jewish Museum in New York. “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” features more than 80 original works from preliminary sketches and dummy books to final paintings and collages for the artist’s most beloved children’s books, including Whistle for Willie (1964), Peter’s Chair (1967), and The Snowy Day (1962).
Published in 1962, at the height of the civil rights movement and winner of the Caldecott Medal, The Snowy Day featured the first African-American protagonist in a full-color picture book and paved the way for multiracial representation in American children’s literature. The Snowy Day—the first modern full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist – went on to become an inspiration for generations of readers, transforming children’s literature forever.
The exhibition, which remains on view through January 29, 2012, is part of a wide-scale celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Snowy Day (Viking), complete with eight pages of bonus material, including photographs that inspired the character of Peter and letters from fans like Langston Hughes.
An illustrated book for adults, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats, is being co-published in October by the Jewish Museum and Yale University Press to complement the exhibit. The 104-page hardcover book includes 80 color and three black-and-white illustrations; essays by Claudia Nahson, curator at the Jewish Museum, and art critic Maurice Berger; and an illustrated timeline by Emily Casden and Nahson. It will be available worldwide and at the Jewish Museum’s Cooper Shop for $27.50.
Following its New York City showing, the exhibition will travel to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA (June 26-October 14, 2012); the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, CA (November 15, 2012-February 24, 2013); and the Akron Art Museum in Ohio (March-June 2013).