Maurice Sendak was born Maurice Bernard Sendak, on 10 June 1928, into a Jewish-Polish family, in Brooklyn, New York. He was the youngest of three siblings, including his brother Jack (b. 1923) and sister Natalie (b. 1919). His father, Philip was a dressmaker. Sendak's childhood was scarred by World War II, losing many members of his extended family during the Holocaust. It exposed him at a very early age to the imminence of death. He developed his love of books as a child, when confined to bed by illness. It was watching the Walt Disney film
Fantasia that inspired him to become an illustrator. Among his first commissions was to design a window for FAO Schwartz, the New York City toy store. His first published illustrations appeared in a textbook,
Atomics for the Millions (1947) by Maxwell Leigh Eidinoff.
During the 1950s, Sendak's illustrations mainly appeared in books written by other authors. He even illustrated two children's books written by his older brother, Jack Sendak. He first gained literary success for writing and illustrating
Where the Wild Things Are, edited by Ursula Nordstrom (1963), which featured a boy furious with his mother for sending him to bed without supper, who imagines a world of fearsome monsters. The book established a new standard by which to measure children's books. Nevertheless, he continued to illustrate books by other authors, including
Slateh the Goat and Other Stories (1966), Isaac Bashevis Singer's first children's book.
Among Sendak's most notable works was
In The Night Kitchen (1970) which has been frequently censored or criticized for its illustration of a young boy prancing naked in the kitchen. He was also one of the advisors during the development of
Sesame Street, the public television series for children. In the 1970s and 1980s he began working on set designs, including for Mozart's operas,
The Magic Flute (1981) and
Idomeneo (1991), and Tchaikovsky's ballet
The Nutcracker (1980). He also illustrated E. T. A. Hoffmann's fantasy,
Nutcracker (1984) upon which Tchaikovsky has based his ballet. He also illustrated Hans Krasa's children's Holocaust opera,
Brundibár (2003). Sendak also developed the children's television series
Seven Little Monsters which included 10 episodes that appeared over four seasons, 2000-2004.
Sendak received many awards and honors during his lifetime. He received the Caldecott Medal from the American Library Association, for
Where the Wild Things Are (1964). He was also a runner-up for the Caldecott Award seven times from 1954 to 1982, more than any other illustrator. He won the Hans Christian Andersen Award for children's book illustration (1970), the first American ever to do so. He received a National Book Award for Outside Over There (1982) and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for American children's literature (1983); he also won the National Medal of Arts (1996) and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (2003). In 1984, Princeton University gave him an honorary doctorate; in 2004, he received his second honorary doctorate from Goucher College. In 2013, he was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame. In 1984, North Hollywood, California, named an elementary school in his honor him. He received an honorary doctorate from Princeton University in 1984.
Sendak, who never married, revealed that he was gay in a
New York Times article in 2008. He had lived with his partner Eugene Glynn from 1957 until Glynn's death in 2007 but kept the fact secret to avoid hurting his parents. Sendak later revealed that he had never told his parents, whom he wanted to be happy, and believed that they never knew. An atheist, Sendak stated that he did not believe in God but felt that faith in God must have made life easier for those who do. Sendak died on 8 May 2012 in Danbury, Connecticut after suffering a stroke. He was 84.
During his lifetime, Sendak deposited his collection of rare books and his papers at the Rosenbach Library & Museum in Philadelphia, PA. However, he only signed deeds giving his rare books and a $1 million gift. In his will, Sendak specified that the bulk of his papers and works of art become the property of his foundation. In 2014, the Foundation won a legal battle with the Museum and removed 98% of the Sendak Collection to the Sendak home in Ridgefield, CT, where it remains today. A Sendak Museum building is currently under construction (2016).
"Maurice Sendak [Biographical Sketch]". [Biographical Sketch]
"Ralph Manneim [Biographical Sketch]". [Biographical Sketch]
"E. T. A. Hoffmann [Biographical Sketch]". [Biographical Sketch]
"Maurice Sendak Collection Leaves Philadelphia Museum, by Sarah Cascone".
ArtNet.com (16 September 2014)
"Maurice Sendak Collection".
Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, PA. NOTE: returned to Sendak estate in 2014:
"Maurice Sendak Foundation Inc., Ridgefield, Connecticut (CT)".
"Maurice Sendak Papers, 1960-1996 (#DG0878)". 0.3 cubic ft.
de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, with the assistance of John Leche, 3/6/2017.
Stuart Wright collected and compiled the Maurice Sendak Papers. He was born, Stuart Thurman Wright, on 30 March 1948, in Roxboro, North Carolina. He was the son of Frances Critcher Wright (1919-2010) and Wallace Lyndon Wright (1921-1965). An avid reader as a boy, Wright developed a strong interest in the American Civil War and with his father toured many of the war's battlefields searching for artifacts and studying the history of the era. At the age of 12, he won a statewide "Johnny Reb" essay contest and by the age of 15 had visited every major battlefield of the Civil War. Wright attended Roxboro High School, from which he graduated in 1966. It was during these years that he developed an interest in collecting historical books and manuscripts and began relationships with a number of local collectors and dealers.
In the fall of 1966, Wright enrolled at Wake Forest University as a pre-med, history, German and music student. Wright earned a B.A. in German and music in 1970. As a graduate student at Wake Forest University, Wright focused his studies on Southern history and literature, his ambition being to build an authoritative Southern Studies collection for the university. He received a master's degree in Southern Studies in 1973 and a second master's degree in U.S. History in 1980. Additionally Wright holds a professional degree from England in a medically related field. It was while studying there that he became interested in Thomas Wolfe, the noted North Carolina native and novelist.
Following his graduation from Wake Forest, Wright began to develop his collections more systematically, acquiring many first editions of Southern writers. In 1976 he began teaching at Reynolda House, a Wake Forest University affiliate dedicated to the arts and arts education. Wright taught classes in American music as well as human anatomy for art students. In 1978 Wright became Lecturer in Education at Wake Forest University. During his 10 years teaching at Wake Forest University, Wright authored numerous works of Civil War and North Carolina history, and dozens of articles, bibliographies, essays and reviews on Southern literature and the writers whose papers he collected. In addition, he developed a strong interest in the writings of the English poet Donald Davie and the Minnesota-born poet Richard Eberhart, whose works he also collected.
At the same time, Wright also began a career as a publisher by starting Palaemon Press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. By 1984, Palaemon Press had produced 316 titles, consisting mainly of broadsides and limited editions, of the poetry and essays of such Southern writers as A. R. Ammons, Fred Chappell, James Dickey, William Goyen, George Garrett, and Eudora Welty. He also built comprehensive collections and compiled book-length descriptive bibliographies of A.R. Ammons, Andrew Lytle, Reynolds Price, James Dickey, William Goyen, Walker Percy, Randall Jarrell, Peter Taylor, George Garrett, Richard Eberhart, and Donald Davie. As well as serving as editor of the contemporary literature section of the
Bulletin of Bibliography throughout the 1980s, Wright also contributed pioneering checklists of the writings of Southern poets Henry Taylor, Charles Wright, and Robert Morgan. For Meckler Publishing he served as series editor for a number of book-length bibliographies and checklists. In recognition of these accomplishments, when he was just 32, Wright was elected to membership in New York's prestigious Grolier Club.
All of these works are represented in the Stuart Wright Collection. In his dealings with these various authors Wright made consistent efforts to acquire personal papers, letters and documents, photographs, manuscripts, drafts, proofs, and published materials to supplement his continuing activities as a purchaser of their works. In this way, Wright acquired perhaps a majority of his overall collection. Over the years a number of biographers used Wright's collection to aid their research. For example, James A. Grimshaw, Jr. used the collection extensively for his
Robert Penn Warren: A Descriptive Bibliography, 1922-1979 published by the University Press of Virginia, in 1981 and Craig S. Abbott did so as well for
John Crowe Ransom: A Descriptive Bibliography, published by Whitston Publishing Company, Inc. in 1999. Joseph Blotner also used the Wright collection in researching
Robert Penn Warren: A Biography, published by Random House in 1997.
Nevertheless, from the mid- to late 1980s, Wright began to look for a permanent home for his collection, which he felt had grown too large and yet had been too little used. Unable to find a repository willing to accept the entire collection under suitable conditions, he sold a number of individual author collections to Vanderbilt University, Duke University, the University of Texas at Austin, and Emory University. It was not until 2010 that he reached agreement to house the remaining, and largest part of his collection at East Carolina University. The Stuart Wright Collection in the East Carolina Manuscript Collection of J.Y. Joyner Library includes 106 sub-collections of the papers of Southern American writers, illustrators, composers, and publishers. The related Stuart Wright Book Collection holds several thousand volumes by or about many of the same writers. Many of these volumes contain annotations, inscriptions, and insertions that reveal much about the authors in the collection and their relationships with one another. In 1998 Wright moved to England, and since 2001 he has resided in the medieval market town of Ludlow, in Shropshire.
Author: Jonathan Dembo, 11/2/2016