It’s Me, Eloise: The Voice of Kay Thompson and the Art of Hilary Knight at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, February 12 – June 4, 2017

“Eloise has been called a force of nature: brazen, ill-mannered, and utterly appealing, the six-year-old terror of the Plaza Hotel. The girl Kay Thompson created in voice and Hilary Knight brought to life through illustration is at the heart of a new exhibition at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, It’s Me Eloise: The Voice of Kay Thompson and the Art of Hilary Knight.

The first major retrospective of Knight’s work showcases more than 90 objects, from numerous Eloise illustrations to art from the rest of his prodigious career as a children’s book artist, poster designer, magazine illustrator, and painter. Among the many treasures on display are Knight’s 1954 trial drawings for the first Eloise book, two Eloise in Paris sketchbooks, a magnificent suite of final art from Eloise In Moscow, and the 1993 Eloise watercolor for New York Is Book Country. There’s a kicker, too: for the first time since its infamous disappearance from the Plaza Hotel in 1960, Knight’s original 1956 Eloise portrait is also on view.” — The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

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Unpublished drawing by Hilary Knight for Eloise [Simon & Schuster, 1955]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Unpublished drawing by Hilary Knight for Eloise [Simon & Schuster, 1955]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

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Illustration by Hilary Knight for The Plaza Hotel’s children’s menu (1956-1957). Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Unpublished drawing by Hilary Knight for Eloise [Simon & Schuster, 1955]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

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Portrait of Eloise (1956) by Hilary Knight. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

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Unpublished illustration by Hilary Knight from Eloise in Paris [Simon & Schuster, 1957]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson.

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Final illustration by Hilary Knight from Eloise in Moscow [Simon & Schuster, 1959]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, from ELOISE IN MOSCOW © 1959, 1987 by Kay Thompson. All rights reserved.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Final illustration by Hilary Knight from Eloise in Moscow [Simon & Schuster, 1959]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, from ELOISE IN MOSCOW © 1959, 1987 by Kay Thompson. All rights reserved.

Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art

Final illustration by Hilary Knight from Eloise in Moscow [Simon & Schuster, 1959]. Collection of Hilary Knight. Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, from ELOISE IN MOSCOW © 1959, 1987 by Kay Thompson. All rights reserved.

 

Exhibition curator Jane Bayard Curley says Knight “contributed a different DNA to Eloise.” He was influenced by his parents, who were both great artists, as well as illustrators Edmund Dulac and E. H. Shepard. Ronald Searle’s cartoon series Belle’s of St. Trinian’s, which followed boisterous girls through their boarding school days, helped Knight capture Eloise’s rambunctious spirit. However, it was his mother’s 1930 painting of a young girl that served as one of his greatest muses, while his father’s 1926 New Yorker cover inspired Eloise’s distinctive black, white, and pink color scheme. “Knight’s drawings not only pinned Thompson’s words to the page, they made Eloise accessible to children,” says Curley.

Images courtesy The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.