Brandywine Museum of Art to present "Rooted: Family and Nature in Contemporary Children's Book Illustration"

Brandywine Museum of Art to present "Rooted: Family and Nature in Contemporary Children's Book Illustration"

On view October 14, 2023 through February 28, 2024

Chadds Ford, PA, September 25, 2023  Coming to the Brandywine Museum of Art this fall, Rooted: Family and Nature in Contemporary Children’s Book Illustration will explore the enduring bonds of nature and family through a lively selection of original artwork created for eight illustrated children’s books. The exhibition will highlight illustrations featuring a diverse group of protagonists who in these books experience compelling moments in their everyday lives, whether it be finding appreciation for the wonders of nature or feeling joy in activities with family in the outdoors. Eight award-winning artists are represented in this major presentation, including Micha Archer, Sophie Blackall, Cozbi A. Cabrera, Joe Cepeda, Devon Holzwarth, Juana Martinez-Neal, Frank Morrison and Qing Zhuang.

On view October 14, 2023 through February 28, 2024, Rooted is organized by the Brandywine and co-curated by associate curator, Audrey Lewis, and Shadra Strickland, a renowned artist in her own right who serves as the chair of illustration at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. “As a fan of children’s literature and a creator, I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the work of these incredible artists, who have dedicated their lives to the craft of art and storytelling, to the Brandywine community,” said Shadra Strickland.

With more than 75 illustrations on view, visitors of all ages will be immersed in the colorful, lively paintings created with a variety of materials, including acrylic, oil, watercolor, pastels, colored pencils, linocuts, woodcuts, ink and collage. To make the exhibition even more engaging to children, the works of art will be installed at a lower height ensuring that young visitors can be properly immersed in the vibrant artwork. 

Rooted is a continuation of the rich tradition of illustration that is so well represented in Brandywine's collection beginning early in the twentieth century by artists such as Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth and Jesse Willcox Smith,” said co-curator Audrey Lewis. “Seeing how artists today connect to and expand upon that tradition with new stylistic approaches and creating a much more diverse group of characters is thrilling.” Rooted follows on the success of two earlier Brandywine exhibitions centered on children: Get the Picture: Contemporary Children's Book Illustration (2016) and Holidays & Snow Days: Illustrations for Three Children's Books (2018-19). “Through exhibitions like these and a robust slate of programming geared toward children and families, the Brandywine is committed to developing and nurturing the next generation of museum goers,” added Lewis.

About the Artists and Featured Books:

Micha Archer is an artist, illustrator and educator. She has received many awards for her work, including a Caldecott Honor for Wonder Walkers (2021), which was both written and illustrated by Archer. Her illustrations capture the sense of wonder and curiosity felt by two children as they explore nature, asking questions like “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” and “Are shells the shore’s necklace?”. 

Sophie Blackall is a two-time Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator of over 50 books for children. In Farmhouse (2022), Blackall tells a story based on a real-life family who long ago occupied a farmhouse and dairy farm in the Catskills of New York. Using hand-collaged elements—such as printed wallpaper, old photographs, and remnants of clothes that Blackall salvaged after she purchased the property—she imagines their daily lives in exquisite detail.

Cozbi A. Cabrera is an author, illustrator, doll maker and clothes designer. Me & Mama (2020) was written and illustrated by Cabrera and was a winner of a 2021 Caldecott Honor and a Coretta Scott King Award Honor for Illustration. The story and images vividly celebrate a mother and young daughter as they spend a rainy day together enjoying simple but meaningful activities both in their home and outside. 

Joe Cepeda is an award-winning illustrator of more than 30 books for children and serves as the president of the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. He is the author and illustrator for Rafa Counts on Papá (2022), which tells the story of a father and son who share a love for numbers and measuring everything from how high their dog can jump to how far they can run. What is immeasurable, they find, is their love for each other. Cepeda’s vibrant, bold and colorful illustrations capture the joyful, dynamic relationship between father and son.

Devon Holzwarth is an illustrator, author and painter whose past awards include a Society of Illustrators gold medal and the Schneider Family Book Award. Her expressive illustrations for Papa, Daddy, & Riley (2020, written by Seamus Kirst) convey the love and closeness of Riley and her two dads. When Riley is asked by another child which one of her fathers is her real one, her dads help her understand that they are both her fathers and that families can look different in many ways but what makes them truly a family is the love they share with one another.

Juana Martinez-Neal is a Caldecott award-winning author and illustrator whose Zonia’s Rain Forest (2021) focuses on a young Asháninka girl living in the Amazon rainforest of Peru who on one of her daily adventures encounters an area where many trees have been cut down. She worries about what will happen to her animal friends—the sloths, butterflies and birds—who live in the forest. The book has received high praise for its environmental message and its exuberant illustrations which Martinez-Neal created with woodcut prints and ink and pencil drawn on homemade banana leaf paper that was crafted by indigenous Asháninka women. 

Frank Morrison is a three-time Coretta Scott King award-winning illustrator and author. His graffiti-based fine art is internationally renowned. In The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver (2020, written by Gene Barretta), Morrison beautifully illustrates the story of how the young botanist’s early love for nature and his curiosity inspired him to create his own garden which led him to his distinguished career as an agricultural scientist and inventor. Morrison’s lush oil paintings bring Carver’s powerful story to life for young readers.

Qing Zhuang was born in China, emigrating to the United States with her family at the age of seven. An illustrator, author, and elementary and middle school art teacher, she earned a B.F.A. in Illustration from Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, and a Master of Arts in Teaching from the School of Visual Arts, New York. Rainbow Shopping (2023) is her first writer-illustrator project and has been widely praised. Inspired by weekend grocery trips to Chinatown with her own mother, Zhuang creates a story that is both sweet and funny and reflects on how it feels to move to a completely new country. Through her bright and exuberant illustrations, rendered in color pencil, crayon and watercolor, Zhuang captures the energy of New York City and the lively details of the bustling food market.  

About the Brandywine Museum of Art:

The Brandywine Museum of Art features an outstanding collection of American art housed in a 19th-century Mill building with a dramatic steel and glass addition overlooking the banks of the Brandywine River. The Museum is located on Route 1 in Chadds Ford, PA. Current admission rates and hours of operation can be found at Guided tours of the Andrew Wyeth Studio, N. C. Wyeth House & Studio, and the Kuerner Farm—all National Historic Landmarks—are available seasonally (for an additional fee); advance reservations are recommended. For more information, call 610.388.2700 or visit The Museum is one of the two programs of the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

About the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art:

The Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art preserves and promotes the natural and cultural connections between the area’s beautiful landscape, historic sites, and important artists. The Conservancy protects the lands and waters throughout the Brandywine Valley and other priority conservation areas, developing sustainable approaches to emerging needs and assuring preservation of majestic open spaces and protection of natural resources for generations to come. The Museum of Art presents and collects historic and contemporary works of American art, engaging and exciting visitors of all ages through an array of exhibitions and programs. The Brandywine unites the inspiring experiences of art and nature, enhancing the quality of life in its community and among its diverse audiences.


# # #