Lois Lenski: Exploring the Everyday Lives of Children

The Little Auto by Lois Lenski
Sep 01, 2009 - Nov 29, 2009
Duvoisin Gallery

Thirty-six illustrations selected from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s holdings of over 60 children’s book illustrations by Lois Lenski (1893-1974) reveal ways in which the Newbery Award–winning author/illustrator’s deep interest in the daily lives and activities of children is reflected in visual components of her books.

Lenski’s groundbreaking picture book, The Little Auto (1934), features clear hand-lettered text and engaging black and red illustrations that resonate with the imaginative play of a child with a toy car. Reflecting her ideas about the preferences of young children, crisp ink drawings with touches of color predominate in works such as Now It’s Fall (1948), and figures and action are contained within the frame of the page.

Concurrently creating picture books, Lenski researched, wrote, and illustrated fiction for older children. Beginning in the early 1940s, Lenski determined to investigate and describe in fiction the lives of children from various regions of the United States currently underrepresented in juvenile literature. Books such as Judy’s Journey (1947), a novel about a girl whose family earns a living as migrant workers, provided children of the World War II and post-war era with a perspective on lives much different from their own. Small, information-packed illustrations in graphite or ink amplify, but don’t compete with, the texts.

Books for viewing and for browsing are on display in the gallery, along with activities for visitors. Illustrations on view in the gallery, some being shown for the first time, are the gift of the artist’s son, Steven Covey.

Organized by Gail Aaron, Assistant Curator of Original Illustrations for Children’s Books

Original illustration for The Little Auto by Lois Lenski
© 1934 and 1962 Lois Lenski
Collection Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers
Published by permission of The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation, Inc. and Random House, Inc.