This summer, the New-York Historical Society will present a special exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of the publication of the iconic children’s classic Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans, on view from July 4 through October 13, 2014, will honor the plucky Parisian schoolgirl and her creator in the first exhibition devoted to the artist in more than 50 years. Organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts, the exhibition will premiere at the New-York Historical Society before returning to The Carle.
A natural storyteller who drew and wrote with fluency, Ludwig Bemelmans (1898-1962) artfully blended childhood memories with his experiences as an adult to create Madeline, published in 1939. His story about a precocious young girl’s adventures at boarding school was hugely successful and Bemelmans went on to publish five more Madeline stories, as well as develop the idea for Madeline in the White House with Jacqueline Kennedy; the book was written by his grandson John Bemelmans Marciano.
“We are thrilled to feature these delightful paintings and drawings by Ludwig Bemelmans at New-York Historical,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, President & CEO of the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library. “Though best known for his Parisian scenes, Bemelmans was a New York City transplant who immigrated here 100 years ago and started writing Madeline in Pete’s Tavern near Gramercy Park. It is only fitting that this exhibition debut at the New-York Historical Society.”
The exhibition will explore Ludwig Bemelmans’s career through more than 90 works, many recently rediscovered, including drawings, paintings, specially commissioned objects, archival photographs and memorabilia like the artist’s paintbox. Also on view are the original Madeline manuscript and original drawings from all the Madeline books, which will provide insights into Bemelmans’s creative process.
Other highlights include:
• the crayon and watercolor drawing “One nice morning Miss Clavel said,” depicting Miss Clavel rounding-up the twelve little girls in a picturesque Paris park, with the Arc de Triomphe in the distance;
• scenes from Madeline and the Bad Hat from the girls’ visit to the zoo showing some of Pepito’s mischievous antics, including setting free caged tropical birds with vibrant plumage;
• the oil painting “Madeline at the Paris Flower Market” (1955), an iconic image of Bemelmans’s heroine and alter-ego, that captures Madeline’s character: cosmopolitan, curious, courageous, adventurous, and a lover of animals.
Bemelmans’s entire career will be examined, from his rarely-seen early comics, to his celebrated, sometimes tumultuous, life as a bon vivant, hotelier and restaurateur. Examples include covers of the satirical Judge Magazine in 1930 and 1932, the 1933 comic “Noodles the Trained Seal” in the Saturday Evening Post, as well as the complete set of illustrations for a Town & Country magazine article titled “Adieu to the Old Ritz.” Published on the occasion of the classic hotel’s closing in 1950, the article concludes with the drawing “Ok, Boys – Take it away,” capturing a workman swinging a sledgehammer to demolish the grand interior.
A few rare examples of Bemelmans’s commissioned work also will be on view, including two panels from murals created for the children’s playroom of Aristotle Onassis’s yacht The Christina in 1953, and two Madeline-themed lamps from Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, now a classic New York institution.
Support for Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans has been generously provided by Mr. and Mrs. Charles M. Royce and The Walton Family Foundation.
Programming and Additional Information
The New-York Historical Society will host a series of afternoon teas, featuring a Paris-inspired menu and readings of some favorite Madeline books. The events will take place on July 16, August 13, September 10, and October 8 from 3-5 pm. Tickets are available online ($50 adult / $40 child).
Accompanying the exhibition is a 48-page illustrated catalogue with a foreword by illustrator Maira Kalman and an essay by exhibition curator Jane Bayard Curley.
On May 15, to commemorate the 75th anniversary, Penguin will reissue a lavish slipcased edition of the original Madeline, with a full-color panoramic pop-up spread of Paris featuring famous landmarks like Madeline’s house. A special collection of Madeline merchandise for all ages commemorating Madeline‘s 75th Anniversary has been developed by YOTTOY Productions of New York.
About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.