RHS Exhibit "Rowayton and the Purple Crayon" featured in the Norwalk Hour.
The names Maurice Sendak, Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson are highly recognizable in the world of children's literature as authors or illustrators of such classics as "Where the Wild Things Are," "A Hole Is to Dig," and "Harold and the Purple Crayon."
But what may not be as widely-known is their connection to Rowayton as residents in the 1950's and they, along with illustrator and Rowaytonite Jim Flora, are the subjects of a new exhibit at Rowayton Historical Society (RHS) entitled, "Rowayton and the Purple Crayon: Celebrating the Creative Culture of 1950's Rowayton."
"We're really excited about this exhibit," said Wendell Livingston, president of RHS. "We have quite a lot of original artwork on loan from the University of Connecticut Thomas J. Todd Research Center archives and special collections."
The show not only focuses on the art of the four, but pulls back the curtain on the political climate at the time as the views of husband-wife team Krauss and Johnson caused them to come under FBI scrutiny.
"What's interesting about this exhibit is that not only were there these four incredible gems, but what comes into play is McCarthyism and the Red Scare of the 1950's. Crockett Johnson didn't make a secret of his politics and we discovered that the FBI was prowling around town and spying on him," Livingston said.
A young Sendak, was a "chronic houseguest" of Krauss and Johnson for more than 10 years according to Livingston.
"He was a young man living in New York and Ruth and Dave took him under their wings," she said. "He adored them, and spent time at their home on Rowayton Avenue with fabulous views of the river. There's a great Sendak quote about Max from 'Where The Wild Things Are.' Sendak said 'Max was born in Rowayton...and was the love child of me, Ruth, and Dave.'"
Sketches and layouts from the picture book classics will be displayed as part of the exhibit. Visiting the exhibition, Livingston said is a trip back in time, reliving childhood favorites such as "A Hole is to Dig," "Harold and the Purple Crayon," "The Fabulous Firework Family," "Where the Wild Things Are," and the comic strip Barnaby.
"Another interesting tendril of this is that in Ruth Krauss's book, 'A Hole is to Dig,' the words are the result of her speaking to kindergartners at Rowayton Elementary School," Livingston said.
Calling Jim Flora's "roots deep" in Rowayton, Livingston said: "We have three paintings on loan from Jane Flora, Jim's wife."
"Rowayton and the Purple Crayon" will open to the public on Sunday May 25 as part of Rowayton's Memorial Day celebration.
"After the parade, people tend to migrate over to Pinkney Park," she said. "Sunday is going to be a huge crowd."
A preview reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, May 22 at the Pinkney House, 177 Rowayton Ave.
"Attendees at the preview reception will be among the first to see priceless original art and sketches, book dummies, correspondence, manuscripts and more, while learning about fascinating private lives of these renowned artists," said curator Lesley Korzennik.
Tickets to the preview reception are: $25 per person and are available by emailing email@example.com. A portion of the ticket price will benefit the Rowayton Historical Society's educational programming.
The exhibition runs through Thanksgiving. Exhibition hours are Tuesdays 9:30 a.m. to noon, Fridays noon to 3p.m., and Sundays 12-3pm. (Closed June 12 and July 6th and the month of August.) General admission is $5, free for RHS members.