Engaging children's book illustrations by Art Seiden on view at Zimmerli
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Engaging children's book illustrations by Art Seiden on view at Zimmerli
Art Seiden, "The polar bear is white..." from Zoo Animals for Children, published 1963. Gouache on illustration board. Collections Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. Gift of the artist. Photo Peter Jacobs.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ .- Whimsical mid-century design was not limited to fashion or furniture, it also flourished in children’s books of the era. How Do You Say...? Learning Animal Names with Illustrator Art Seiden / ¿Cómo se dice…? Aprendiendo nombres de animales con el ilustrador Art Seiden, on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers from March 9 through July 31, showcases the artist’s ability to engage children with his timeless animal portraits in Zoo Animals for Children.

The 33 illustrations on view – exhibited together for the first time – are from the Zimmerli’s permanent collection, accompanied by labels in Spanish and English. In addition, an interactive gallery activity invites visitors to share drawings and the names of their favorite animals in any language.

“Art is an important aid for children as they learn other skills,” said Nicole Simpson, the Zimmerli’s Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings, who organized the exhibition. “These books emphasize the importance of language acquisition during early childhood.”

Art Seiden (1923-2004) produced more than 300 children's books, in addition to commercial illustration work. His illustrations have immortalized topics that fill children’s thoughts: the alphabet, numbers, vehicles, anatomy, fairy tales. In 1963, Seiden created illustrations in collaboration with Berlitz, the language education corporation. Published in two versions – French and Spanish – Zoo Animals for Children charms young readers with vivid animal portraits and fun facts while teaching them about new languages.

In these illustrations, he painted detailed portraits of animals, in color and black and white, using gouache (opaque watercolor). Whether a mammal, bird, amphibian, reptile, or fish, Seiden gave each animal a distinct personality, capturing the beauty and diversity of our natural world. The broad range of hues on a peacock and ostrich add dimension to the texture of their feathers. The bright colors and animated facial expressions of a squirrel & lizard convey the satisfaction of their respective meals of a peanut and an insect. Black and white renderings of the intense concentration of a bear eating a fish and a shark hunting remind young readers about the danger of these predators.

Born in Brooklyn, Seiden was a graduate of Queens College and studied at the Art Students League in New York City. He was a member of the American Watercolor Society and The Society of Illustrators, among others. Between 1987 and 2003, Seiden donated more than 140 of his illustrations to the Zimmerli.

How Do You Say...? Learning Animal Names with Illustrator Art Seiden / ¿Cómo se dice…? Aprendiendo nombres de animales con el ilustrador Art Seiden, organized by Nicole Simpson, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings, is on view from March 6 to July 31, 2022. To schedule a class or group tour, please contact the Education Department (education@zimmerli.rutgers.edu) at least three weeks in advance.

The Zimmerli’s Collection of Original Illustrations for Children’s Literature has nearly 4,000 works, including original drawings and preparatory materials that document the book making process. Recognizing that children’s first exposure to art is often through illustrated books, the collection began in 1979 to preserve and promote the work 20th-century American illustrators. More than 100 illustrators—many with New Jersey connections—are represented, including Adrienne Adams, Frank Asch, Maginel Wright Barney, Tony Chen, Harry Devlin, Diane and Leo Dillon, Roger Duvoisin, Elizabeth Enright, Lois Lenski, Petra Mathers, Takayo Noda, and Jean and Mou-sien Tseng. The Roger Duvoisin Gallery – named in honor of the author and illustrator – is dedicated to showcasing this extensive collection with rotating exhibitions.

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