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On the occasion of Rutgers University’s 250th anniversary and the Zimmerli Art Museum’s 50th anniversary, this exhibition celebrates the work and contributions of the New Jersey artist Harry Devlin (1918–2001), an important figure in establishing the museum’s collection of original illustrations for children’s literature. On view in this gallery are Devlin’s drawings for two of his early stories, The Knobby Boys to the Rescue (1965) and How Fletcher Was Hatched (1969). These imaginative tales explore common childhood fears and emotions through animal characters who work together to help friends in need. In his engaging illustrations, lovingly rendered landscapes provide beautifully detailed natural settings for the adventures undertaken by intrepid animals, including a dog, a beaver, an otter, a bear, a fox, a raccoon, and a crow.
Born in Jersey City and working primarily in Mountainside, New Jersey, Harry Devlin established his artistic career as a cartoonist for the weekly magazines Collier’s and Saturday Home News during the 1940s. He and his wife Dorothy Wende (known as Wende, 1918–2002), a painter and writer, first collaborated on a comic strip that ran from 1954 to 1957 called Fullhouse (later renamed Ragamopp), based on the antics of their seven children. The success of the strip prompted the Devlins to begin creating storybooks written by Wende and illustrated by Harry. Beginning in 1963, the Devlins published twenty-six children’s books, many of which are still in print. Around 1970, Harry Devlin joined the newly established Rutgers Advisory Committee on Children’s Literature (now the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature). In 1988, Harry and Wende Devlin donated more than one hundred of Harry’s original drawings for children’s books to the Zimmerli’s renowned collection of works on paper, including the works in this exhibition.
Organized by Christine Giviskos, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Art
Harry Devlin (1918-2001)
..Beaver and Otter, nestling close to their great egg… from How Fletcher Was Hatched, 1969
Watercolor and pen and ink on illustration board
Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers
Gift of Wende and Harry Devlin
Photo Peter Jacobs