"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!" illustrations soar into New-York Historical Society's collection

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"Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!" illustrations soar into New-York Historical Society's collection
Barney Tobey (1906–1989). Study for pp. 16–17 of Ian Fleming’s Story of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car, 1968. Watercolor, gouache, and black ink on Bainbridge board. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey, 2015.40.83.9

NEW YORK, NY.- The New-York Historical Society announced that Barney Tobey’s whimsical original illustrations for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car (Random House, 1968) have been donated to its collection. Tobey’s watercolors illustrated the only children’s book written by James Bond author Ian Fleming, which Al Perkins adapted for beginning readers. Twenty-nine preparatory works—exhibited for the first time—are paired with the book’s page proofs with text in a special exhibition on view at New-York Historical until August 30.

“We are grateful to Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey for donating his father’s vibrant and enchanting illustrations to our collection,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Our visitors are in for a treat this summer as they follow along with the Pott family and their magical car on their fantastical adventure.”

A native New Yorker and lifetime resident of Central Park West, Barney Tobey (1906–1989) was a prolific cartoonist and illustrator. Tobey designed several covers and more than 1,200 cartoons published in the New Yorker alone. His cartoons and covers also appeared in Collier’s Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and Variety. Since Tobey’s ideas came from his own experience, New York City figured heavily in his work. In addition to magazine illustration, he also created theater posters, stationery, book covers, and children’s books—including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! The Magical Car and works by Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss). B. Tobey of the New Yorker, a collection of his cartoons, was published in 1983.

The illustrations on view feature “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”―the flying, floating, self-driving automobile that takes the Pott family on a series of adventures as they attempt to go on a picnic. The book’s publication coincided with the popular British musical film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which Roald Dahl and Ken Hughes based loosely on Fleming’s 1964 original story for young readers. Directed by Albert R. Broccoli, the film starred Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, and Lionel Jeffries. The film’s theme song was nominated for an Academy Award and can be heard in the gallery. Also on display are several cartoon studies by Tobey prepared for the New Yorker. The installation is curated by Dr. Roberta J.M. Olson, curator of drawings.

On Saturday, July 29 at 1 pm, New-York Historical welcomes families and visitors to a special screening of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the Patricia Patricia D. Klingenstein Library. The film is free with Museum Admission, and complimentary popcorn will be served. Seating is first come, first served.

In addition to the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! watercolors, Mr. and Mrs. David M. Tobey have donated more than 100 cartoons by Barney Tobey―many of which were created for the New Yorker―along with several covers created by Tobey; a multi-media watercolor cover design for the New Yorker by his wife, Beatrice Szanton, also an artist; a pen-and-ink drawing by Leonora Fini, an Argentinian Surrealist artist; as well as a few early oil paintings by Tobey.

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