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Fractured Fairy Tales: From the Conventional to the Unconventional

October 5, 2019 to January 5, 2020

Steven Guarnaccia (b. 1953), "Perhaps it will fit me," said Cinderella. Illustration for Cinderella, A Fashionable Tale (Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013)

Fairy tales are age-old stories that teach life lessons, touch on dark fears and elemental truths, and seed nascent imaginations. The universality of their appeal has inspired illustrators for centuries.

From October 5, 2019 through January 5, 2020, the Brandywine River Museum of Art will present Fractured Fairy Tales: From the Conventional to the Unconventional, an examination of illustrations for three well-known and beloved fairy tales—Cinderella, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and The Three Little Pigs. The exhibition is organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art, which will be the exclusive venue.

For this exhibition, guest curator H. Nichols B. Clark, retired Founding Director and Chief Curator of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, has deflected textual considerations and focused on the broad array of imagery; the central premise is to consider the three tales and upend the status quo of traditional depictions. The work of nineteenth and early twentieth-century masters such as George Cruikshank, Walter Crane, and L. Leslie Brooke will provide examples of classic styles and interpretations that influenced numerous traditional artists such as Marcia Brown, Paul Galdone, Barbara McClintock, and Jerry Pinkney. These orthodox images will be juxtaposed with unconventional interpretations, such as the more experimental and edgy visions exemplified by the art of Steven Guarnaccia, James Marshall, Lane Smith, William Wegman, David Wiesner, and Mo Willems.

Illustrations, explored as signifiers of time and culture, reveal the extraordinary versatility inherent in the stories. Rich multicultural readings, such as those from China (Ed Young), the Spice Islands of Indonesia (Reynold Ruffins), the Caribbean (Brian Pinkney), Russia (Anita Lobel), and Mexico (Tomie dePaola) underscore the notion that these treasured stories live visually in many different forms and lend themselves to surprisingly diverse interpretation.