Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Maurice Sendak: An Artist In Love With the World and the Things That Go Bump in the Night


by Gregg Chadwick


“Dear Mr. Sendak,  How much does it cost to get to where the wild things are? If it is not expensive, my sister and I would like to spend the summer there.”
 -From a letter sent by an eight year old reader to Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak
 Where the Wild Things Are
Pen and ink and watercolor on paper  1963



Maurice Sendak was an artist in love with the world and with things that go bump in the night. Sendak looked deeply at the world around him. His vision included the visible nature of  our existence and the invisible, but no less real, world of dreams. Sendak's beautifully crafted artworks for his books began with simple pencil sketches that were then enlarged and fleshed out with pen and ink which was then layered with glowing watercolor washes. 

The finished paintings on paper reflect what Dave Eggers described in a Vanity Fair article on Sendak as the "unhinged and chiaroscuro subconscious of a child." Sendak's books and images appealed to readers of all ages. Sendak took the deep mysteries of life head-on and allowed us all to journey to where the wild things are.
 In an interview with Terry Gross in September 2011, Maurice Sendak reflected on his mortality and the transient nature of life in general:
"Yes. I'm not unhappy about becoming old. I'm not unhappy about what must be. It makes me cry only when I see my friends go before me and life is emptied. I don't believe in an afterlife, but I still fully expect to see my brother again. And it's like a dream life. I am reading a biography of Samuel Palmer, which is written by a woman in England. I can't remember her name. And it's sort of how I feel now, when he was just beginning to gain his strength as a creative man and beginning to see nature. But he believed in God, you see, and in heaven, and he believed in hell. Goodness gracious, that must have made life much easier. It's harder for us nonbelievers.
But, you know, there's something I'm finding out as I'm aging that I am in love with the world. And I look right now, as we speak together, out my window in my studio and I see my trees and my beautiful, beautiful maples that are hundreds of years old, they're beautiful. And you see I can see how beautiful they are. I can take time to see how beautiful they are. It is a blessing to get old. It is a blessing to find the time to do the things, to read the books, to listen to the music. You know, I don't think I'm rationalizing anything. I really don't. This is all inevitable and I have no control over it."
We are fortunate that Maurice Sendak's love for beauty and the mystery of existence forged a unique vision that led to his magical books and images. He will be greatly missed.

Maurice Sendak
Outside Over There
Pen and ink and watercolor on paper 1978


Portrait of Maurice Sendak by Annie Leibovitz 

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