Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 28, 2010

Into the Wood: Antonio Frasconi’s Art for Children

Yesterday I saw Into the Wood at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art
and had the treat of hearing its curator, Jane Bayard Curley, talk about how she made choices for the exhibit: she enjoyed poking around Frasconi’s home, finding decorated blocks stacked here and there and even cupboard handles are painted with suns. Besides being a celebration of about 75 years of making art, this exhibit honors a playful approach to the world. Most often we see powerful black and white woodcuts, mostly depictions of nature with wondrous elements or words and images mixing. There are examples from some of the over one hundred books Frasconi illustrated and limited editions: sometimes he made a single book for his sons. We also see a print of Walt Whitman that he gave one child for his fourth birthday. And images of the moon, with text that reminds us of how each of us sees its glow differently.

Frasconi, who now lives in Connecticut, was born in South America in 1919 from Italian-born parents. There, art schools struck him as too restrictive, so he took an apprentice in a printing shop.In 1945 he moved to California with a dream of working for Walt Disney, whose work he loved. When that didn’t pan out, he worked as a gardener and a guard in the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, where he later had his first art show. He moved to New York, where he worked for Leo Lionni when he was art director for Fortune magazine, as did Eric Carle. All three became known for using simple images, usually drawn from the natural world, to tell stories, often fables or allegories, for young children.

While Frasconi’s work for adults often addresses themes of justice, after marrying and having two sons, he became even more interested in illustrating children’s books. Disappointed that Pablo and Miguel preferred his mother read to them, since his accent made words hard to understand, Frasconi wrote and illustrated See and Say: A Picture Book in Four Languages, which was published in 1955. He used four colors and four languages to show the beauty and diversity of culture.

Pages from this book are shown in the exhibit along with original prints and wood blocks he printed from. I loved the books made like accordions.

The show will be up until June 13. The pictures here are taken from the museum site where there are more, and you can watch a clip of the artist making his wood cuts.



  1. I adore woodcut prints. It looks like a wonderful show. Thanks for sharing, Jeannine.

  2. Thank you, Lorraine. There’s something I love in woodcuts, too: so clear, so stark. I noticed two women wearing black and white at the show who I thought must be printmakers. I’m not QUITE so meddlesome that I asked….

  3. I had an enormous poster that Frasconi did for some children’s art show in the 1980s. I mean big–like 34 by 40. My stepfather made a frame for it that I painted red, to match the boldness of Frasconi’s work. It hung over my office desk for many years. I stared at it often because this artist is not your usual children’s artist–that one picture had so many layers. Lucky you for visiting the Eric Carle musuem. Do you live close? I’d be there every week–it’s the most perfect museum ever.

  4. Lucky you with that poster. Now I want one over my desk! The curator said something like you know it’s art when you can look at something again and again and keep finding new things.
    Okay, I’d best get back next week!

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