Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet at The Morgan Library & Museum, June 14 – October 6, 2019

“A summer exhibition at the Morgan Library & Museum celebrates an extraordinary bequest from acclaimed author and illustrator of children’s books Maurice Sendak (1928–2012). Best known for his 1963 picture book Where the Wild Things Are, Sendak was an avid music and opera lover. Beginning in the late 1970s, he embarked on a second career as a designer for opera and ballet. Drawing the Curtain brings together nearly one hundred and fifty drawings from more than 900 by Sendak in the Morgan’s collection, including preliminary sketches, storyboards, finished watercolors, and painted dioramas. Also included are earlier works by Sendak on loan from The Maurice Sendak Foundation, and a number of props and costumes. This is the first museum exhibition dedicated to Sendak’s set and costume designs, offering new insights into the artist’s inspirations and creative process.” — The Morgan Library & Museum

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Diorama of Moishe scrim and flower proscenium (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979-1983, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on laminated paperboard. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:69, 70, 71. Photography by Graham Haber, 2018.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Study for stage set #10 (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979-1983, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:52. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Study for Wild Things costume, with notes (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:19. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Storyboard (Where the Wild Things Are), 1979, watercolor, pen and ink, and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.103:72a-b. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Design for show scrim (The Magic Flute), 1979-1980, watercolor and graphite pencil on paper on board. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.104:120. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), The Edge of the Forest, interlude between Act II, scenes 2 and 3, for PBS broadcast (The Cunning Little Vixen), 1983, watercolor and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.105:102. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Costume study for Fox Golden-Stripe (The Cunning Little Vixen), 1981, watercolor and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.105:77. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Design for show curtain (The Love for Three Oranges), 1981, watercolor and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.106:167. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Design for March curtain, Act II (The Love for Three Oranges), 1981, watercolor and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.106:166. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Storyboard (The Love for Three Oranges), 1981-1982, watercolor, ink, and graphite pencil on board. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.106:169. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), 5 Playing cards (The Love for Three Oranges), 1982, watercolor and pen and ink on laminated paperboard. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. Collection of Justin G. Schiller. Photography by Graham S. Haber, 2018.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Ship (Nutcracker), 1982-4, gouache and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.107:289. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Design for show curtain (Nutcracker), 1983, gouache and graphite pencil on paper.© The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.107:262. Photography by Janny Chiu.

Maurice Sendak (1928-2012), Design for battle scene, Act I (Nutcracker), 1982-1983, gouache and graphite pencil on paper. © The Maurice Sendak Foundation. The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Maurice Sendak, 2013.107:262. Photography by Janny Chiu.

“Few people know that Maurice Sendak had a long and productive relationship with the Morgan. It is exciting to focus on his work as a theater designer, which is an often overlooked but important aspect of his career as an artist,” said Director of the museum, Colin B. Bailey. “We are deeply grateful to The Maurice Sendak Foundation for their support in the planning of this exhibition and for lending several key works, including examples of Sendak’s charming Fantasy Sketches.” 

“This exhibition will be a wonderful surprise to those who are familiar with Sendak primarily through his beloved books,” said Rachel Federman, Assistant Curator in the Modern and Contemporary Drawings Department and the curator of the exhibition. “His designs for opera and ballet have all the beauty, humor, and complexity of his picture books and illustrations, but they also put on full display his passion for art, art history, and music.”

Images courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum.