Children's book star 'Madeline' focus of New York exhibit
NEW YORK — Madeline, the plucky French schoolgirl depicted in illustrated children's books, was created 75 years ago, and New York is marking the anniversary of the iconic character with a special exhibition.
“Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans,” which opened in the New-York Historical Society on Friday, chronicles the story of the red-haired Parisian girl from Bemelmans books, which have spawned dolls, a television series and a live-action film.
“ ‘Madeline' is one of the greats in the picture book world,” said Jane Bayard Curley, curator of the exhibition. “She is somebody who survives and thrives in the face of life's troubles.”
More than 90 original artworks, including drawings and paintings, as well as menus, match books and one of the New York covers illustrated by Bemelmans, make up the exhibit. One of Curley's favorite artifacts is the original manuscript of “Madeline.”
The show, which runs through Oct. 19, recounts Bemelmans' life in New York as a bon vivant, hotelier and artist. It is the first New York exhibit to recognize his work since 1959.
Born in 1898 to a Belgian father and German mother, Bemelmans spent his youth at a family hotel in the Austrian Tyrol and at his grandfather's brewery in Regensburg, Germany. He was a failure academically and ran into trouble with the law.
“He was a flop,” said Curley. “His options were reform school in Germany or America. He chose America.”
He passed through New York's Ellis Island in 1914, and eventually found a job as a busboy in the city's famed Ritz Hotel, where he worked for more than 15 years.
Ambitious, enterprising and creative, Bemelmans “had shpilkes,” according to Curley, using the Yiddish word for impatience. Drawing upon the colorful characters he met through his day job, he branched out as an illustrator.
In the summer of 1938, while on vacation with his wife, Madeleine, and daughter on a tiny island off the coast of France he had a bicycle accident. While in the hospital, he met a young girl recovering from an appendectomy. When he returned to New York, he wrote and illustrated the story of Madeline. She is named after his wife, but he dropped the “e” because it was better for rhyming.
With World War II imploding in Europe, the tale of fearless Madeline and her boarding school companions gliding through the City of Light in “two straight lines” struck a chord on both sides of the Atlantic.
“For me Madeline is therapy in the dark hours,” Bemelmans wrote. Readers loved the magical, whimsical rendering of Paris, now shrouded in war, according to Curley.
Organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass., the exhibition also features the velvet hat that inspired the mischievous Pepito, son of the Spanish ambassador.
“While Madeline's story is set in Paris, she is like many precocious New York City kids,” said Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Harvard study bolsters link between pollution, autism
- Gettysburg national park poised to expand by 45 acres
- EPA tabs $3.1M to curb algae in Lake Erie
- West Virginia man dies after being shot with arrow in Wellsburg
- Navy developing robotic fish drone
- Smoking, drinking falls off among teens, but not drug use
- Sen. McConnell wants to stop coal rules
- New York move to ban fracking heartens critics
- Bill to save tax breaks on its way to Obama’s desk
- U.S., Cuba patching torn relations with historic accord
- IRS freezes hiring, stops overtime pay, warns it won’t answer half of its calls amid 3% funding cut