Sendak illustrations to leave the city

More than 10,000 illustrations from Maurice Sendak will be retracted from a local museum.

The Rosenbach Museum in Rittenhouse Square has proudly displayed and housed an extensive collection of work by Maurice Sendak, the famous children’s book writer and illustrator most noted for “Where The Wild Things Are,” since the 1960s.

But now, two years after Sendak’s death, the Sendak Estate is taking back items on loan to the Rosenbach Museum in order to create a new museum near Sendak’s home in Connecticut.

“The collection is really vast,” Patrick Rodgers, the curator of the Sendak collection, said. “It includes [Sendak’s] artwork, some published, some unpublished. We have almost 100 picture books as well.”

Luckily for museum visitors, there are between 400 and 600 pieces owned outright by the museum that will stay in Philadelphia, Rodgers said.

For now, Rodgers encouraged everyone to see the last Sendak show currently set for the Rosenbach. The exhibition runs through Nov. 2 before the pieces on loan will return to Connecticut.

Though Rodgers said he expects the Rosenbach to still enjoy and display its remaining Sendak pieces, the magnitude seen in previous exhibitions will simply not be feasible.

“It will be more difficult to sustain a dedicated gallery now,” Rodgers said. “But we have a lot of picture books most people don’t even know about, so that will be interesting.”

Fans of Sendak and the Rosenbach Museum can continue to learn and study the work of the illustrator and author with the remaining 400 to 600 picture books that the museum is keeping.

“Some of those picture books were gifted outright by [Sendak], or other collectors who loved his work as well,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers went on to describe two Sendak-illustrated picture books in particular that the Rosenbach owns: “Shadrack” and “The Wheel on the School.”

The artistic style, according to Rodgers, is drastically different in the two books, based on which artists were influencing Sendak at that time. Some illustrations are “really stark and scratchy, showing his pen and ink,” Rodgers said, but others are misty, like “washes of gray ink.”

“It makes sense, because Sendak would give a lot of advice to young illustrators, and he would always say to not get stuck in one style,” Rodgers said.

What Rodgers said he will miss most about housing those 10,000 odd pieces is how well Sendak’s work played with other collections the Rosenbach had available.

“Sendak really felt a literary kinship with the museum,” Rodgers said. “He loved Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson. His headspace was always in the 19th century. His exhibition was a hub that could take you to so many different places.”

Though Rodgers is excited at the prospect of the new Sendak museum in Connecticut, he admitted the departure of so many pieces of Sendak’s work will change things for the museum. It will not be entirely easy for Rodgers, either.

“I’ll be sad to see it go, after so many years working with it,” Rodgers said. “But I’m looking forward to seeing what’s going to happen when the collection is re-≠≠≠attached with his home.”

Victoria Mier can be reached at

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