Remembering Sendak at the Met

On Tuesday morning a memorial service for Maurice Sendak was held at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The legendary author and illustrator, and recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2003, passed away in May at the age of 83.

Reporter Kathleen Horan at the WNYC Radio: “People think of him as a beloved, kiddie book author,” said Derick Dreher, director of Philadelphia’s Rosenback Museum, which has 10,000 pieces of Sendak’s work in their collection. “He hated that. He didn’t want to be beloved, he didn’t want to be a kiddie, book author. He wanted to be an artist.”

Tony Kushner, who helped organize the event, said when Sendak worked he had the ability to transform whatever he was facing or feeling. “He made — out of suffering —, sublime works of art.” But it was the sheer fun of just being with Sendak that Kushner said he missed most.

A wicked sense of humor was one of the many layers of Sendak’s personality highlighted by the array of speakers. It was also on display when the lights dimmed for a slideshow of Sendak’s soulful illustrations.

“What I found was not someone rigid, but deep with a sense of humor, who was willing to switch from his Mozart music to whatever ‘20s jazz I was listening to,” Art Spiegelman said.
Link to Kathleen Horan’s article here.

Yesterday, the Guardian published an interview with Taylor Hough, the British editor responsible for publishing Where the Wild Things Are in the UK. She last saw last saw Sendak in December, in the US, where he showed her the pages from the latest book on which he had been working: My Brother’s Book, an illustrated poem inspired by his love for his late brother Jack, which is due to be published next February.

“He was his usual self,” she says. “Very grumpy! Maurice was always a fairly sparky character.”

“Taylor Hough accepted the Astrid Lindgren Memorial award, the biggest prize for children’s literature, on Sendak’s behalf in 2003, as Sendak couldn’t make the event in Stockholm in person (he was at the opening night of Brundibar, the children’s opera for which he designed set and costumes, in Chicago). Speaking to the audience in Stockholm, she told of their first meeting in Sendak’s basement flat on New York’s West 9th Street, when she was 29 and new in her job, looking for US talent to bring to the UK via Bodley Head.”
Link to David Barnett’s article here.

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