Under the North Light: The Life and Work of Maud and Miska Petersham

Overview

The unusual and enduring partnership of Maud and Miska Petersham will intrigue everyone who is interested in the integration of life and work, values and livelihood. Maud and Miska met when they were young, aspiring artists working in their first New York City jobs. Maud, a 1912 Vassar graduate, had deep Yankee roots; Miska immigrated from Hungary in 1912 after rigorous study at the Royal National School for Applied Arts in Budapest. They met while working at a commercial design studio in New York City and ...
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Overview

The unusual and enduring partnership of Maud and Miska Petersham will intrigue everyone who is interested in the integration of life and work, values and livelihood. Maud and Miska met when they were young, aspiring artists working in their first New York City jobs. Maud, a 1912 Vassar graduate, had deep Yankee roots; Miska immigrated from Hungary in 1912 after rigorous study at the Royal National School for Applied Arts in Budapest. They met while working at a commercial design studio in New York City and married in 1917. They moved to Woodstock, New York, in 1920.

Pioneers in a golden age of children's book publishing in America, the Petershams were among a handful of people who set the direction for illustrated children's books as we know them today. They worked closely with such legendary editors as Louise Seaman Bechtel and May Massee, and with such inventive printers as Charles Stringer and William Glaser, greatly advancing the art of the illustrated children's book. Under their studio's north light they produced more than a hundred books, as illustrators or author/illustrators, during a career that spanned five decades.

Theirs was a deep collaboration of complementary backgrounds and temperaments, and a marriage that created a warm and welcoming household. Their books were not only immensely popular with children, but also admired by critics, librarians and tastemakers. In the years before the founding of the Caldecott Medal, their contributions were recognized by the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). Four of the Petershams' books were selected for inclusion in the highly competitive AIGA exhibitions in the late 1920s and early 1930s. During the 1940s the Petershams won a Caldecott Honor (in 1942, for An American ABC) and a Caldecott Medal (in 1946, for The Rooster Crows).

The abiding value of their work and the principles they espoused are the subjects of this book.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
This biography looks at the lives of two of the most influential illustrators of children's books in the 20th century and will be of interest to scholars, librarians, and art students. In lively prose, Webster recounts how two artists with disparate beginnings (Miska, an impoverished Hungarian immigrant, and Maud, daughter of a minister and descendant of the Mayflower), met in a New York art institute in 1912, married, and collaborated on exquisite award-winning children's books for more than 40 years. Comprehensive research including the artists own correspondence and letters from children; commentary from authors, reviewers, educators, and businessmen; and interviews with family members results in an endearing account of the process, dedication, and joy that went into each project. Numerous texts and illustrations are discussed at length and are accompanied by vibrant colorful reproductions. The author emphasizes the artists' originality and significance, noting that their work presents a picture of the cultural trends of their times. Webster discusses the criticism as well as the accolades. He acknowledges that today's critics, more sensitive to cultural stereotypes, find some of the books outdated. The 1946 Caldecott award The Rooster Crows (Macmillan) was reissued in the 1964 printing minus two pages of offensive stereotyping.—Jackie Gropman, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library System, Fairfax, VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780967926865
  • Publisher: WoodstockArts
  • Publication date: 11/15/2012
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Author Lawrence Webster knew the Petershams while growing up in Woodstock during the 1950s and 1960s and has always loved and admired their books and the lives they led. A librarian and nonprofit consultant, Lawrence Webster lives in Upstate New York. Under the North Light is his first foray into writing for love of the subject rather than to meet a deadline.
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