Maurice Sendak has written or illustrated more than 100 picture books over his 60-year career. A number of those books, including Where the Wild Things Are, In the Night Kitchen, and Chicken Soup with Rice, inspired generations of children and changed the landscape of picture books. Included in the exhibition are original watercolors, preliminary sketches, drawings, and dummy books from more than 40 of Sendak's books, all from the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, the repository for Sendak's artwork and working materials. This major retrospective sheds light on the many mysteries of his life and art by exploring the intensely personal undercurrents in his work; and it does so using Sendak's own words, insights, and remarkable stories.
Sendak was born in Brooklyn in 1928, the youngest of three children. His parents, poor Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, suffered greatly from the loss of many family members in Poland during the Holocaust. The sadness and complexities of the Holocaust, the rich memories of his parent's lives in Europe, and his own childhood experiences with his Jewish relatives, are currents that run through all of Sendak's work. The exhibition explores a number of different aspects of Sendak's books including his child characters, monsters, literary and artistic influences, and the settings of his stories. Visitors will delve into the hidden nuances and personal secrets within Sendak's work through exclusive interviews with the artist on digital touch screens throughout the exhibition. As Sendak himself said in one such interview, "When you hide another story in a story, that's the story I am telling the children." These hidden stories within Sendak's work form the core experience of There's a Mystery There.