Oct 21, 2022 - Things to Do

Go "Where the Wild Things Are"

Photo of Maurice Sendak with his characters under a quote, "As a child I felt that books were holy objects, to be caressed, rapturously miffed, and devotedly provided for. I gave my life to them."

Maurice Sendak pictured with his characters from "Where the Wild Things Are" at the Columbus Museum of Art. Photos: Mary Jane Sanese/Axios

👋 Mary Jane here. I visited "Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak" at the Columbus Museum of Art yesterday and it was like being transported into a storybook.

  • I grew up a big fan of Sendak and this exhibit felt like I was inside his mind and heart.

Why it matters: Sendak, a prolific artist and illustrator, has sold over 30 million books and won the 1964 Caldecott Medal for "Where the Wild Things Are."

  • This is the first major exhibit dedicated to Sendak's work since his death 10 years ago.
  • It includes over 150 sketches, storyboards and paintings curated by The Maurice Sendak Foundation.

Context: Sendak was born in Brooklyn to Jewish parents who immigrated from Poland before World War II. His artwork was influenced by his childhood, heritage and losing family during the Holocaust.

  • Sendak, who came out as gay in 2008, kept his 50-year relationship private due to concerns it would impact his career.
Colorful compilation of  Sendak's characters under white lettering that reads "Wild Things Are Happening The Art of Maurice Sendak".
A colorful compilation of Sendak's crew of characters hanging at the entrance of the exhibit.

Details: "Where the Wild Things Are," which was adapted into a 2009 movie, had its own room. You can see copies of the first printing of the book as well as an almost 8-foot Wild Thing from the movie.

  • Sendak's ability to master different illustration styles makes it seem like different artists painted different collections at the exhibit, from his early self-portraits to paintings in his first book, "Kenny's Window."
  • Black-and-white wallpaper inspired by the "Little Bear" series is on display, as well as big colorful flowers from "Where the Wild Things Are."
Black and white wall paper with vines covered in framed artwork by Maurice Sendak.
The black-and-white cover art from the "Little Bear" series is on display as wallpaper.

Later in life, Sendak started designing opera sets. The exhibit features a 14-foot-tall animatronic goose from the New York City Opera's 1984 production of Mozart's Goose of Cairo.

The intrigue: Sendak was not shy about drawing inspiration from other artists, including Mozart.

  • The Wild Thing characters were inspired by Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse. You can see the resemblance in their big feet and disproportionate heads with no neck.
A watercolor painting of Mickey Mouse by Maurice Sendak.
Sendak's watercolor of Mickey Mouse was his first painting, at 6 years old.

What they're saying: "Instead of trying to be original, create your own little family of people to inspire you," Foundation curator Jonathan Weinberg said during the tour yesterday. "When you fail to imitate, you become yourself. Maurice is all about that. Don't be afraid to be unoriginal, everyone is so busy trying to be unoriginal."

If you go: 10am-5pm Tuesday-Wednesday through Mar. 5. 10am-9pm Thursday and 10am-5pm Friday-Sunday. 480 East Broad St.

  • Tickets are $18 for adults and $9 for students or those under 18.

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