Mississippi Museum of Art opens Curious George Saves the Day. The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey

The Mississippi Museum of Art presents Curious George Saves the Day. The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey, an exhibition on view from March 3 through July 22, 2012. It is the twelfth presentation in The Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin Memorial Exhibition Series. Established in 1989 to honor the memory of Annie Laurie Swaim Hearin, one of the Museum’s most dedicated patrons and volunteers, the Hearin series showcases exhibitions of world-class art, attracting visitors to Jackson from across Mississippi, the Southeast, and beyond.

H. A. Rey (American, b. Germany, 1898-1977) Final illustration for How Do you Get There? (1941), Paris, early 1940, watercolor on board. H. A. & Margret Rey Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Curious George, and related characters, created by Margret and H. A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. © 2010 by HMH

Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey has been organized by Claudia Nahson, Curator at The Jewish Museum, New York. The exhibition installation design was created by Barbara Suhr. Kris Stone designed the reading room and all other theatrical environments. Katharine Staelin, Assistant Curator at The Jewish Museum, designed the interactive timeline which incorporates original illustrations by Marcellus Hall, whose work has been featured in The New Yorker and other publications. Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey is supported through a bequest from the Estate of Lore Ross.

Curious George, the impish monkey protagonist of many adventures, may never have seen the light of day were it not for the determination and courage of his creators: illustrator H. A. Rey (1898 – 1977) and his wife, author and artist Margret Rey (1906 – 1996). They were both born in Hamburg, Germany, to Jewish families and lived together in Paris from 1936 to 1940. Hours before the Nazis marched into the city in June 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles carrying drawings for their children’s stories including one about a mischievous monkey, then named Fifi. Not only did they save their animal characters, but the Reys themselves were saved by their illustrations when authorities found them among their belongings. This may explain why saving the day after a narrow escape became the premise of most of their Curious George stories.

After their fateful escape from Paris and a four-month journey across France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, the couple settled in New York in the fall of 1940. In all, the Reys authored and illustrated more than thirty books, most of them for children, with seven of them starring Curious George. Over seventy years after the arrival of Curious George in America, the monkey’s antics have been translated into more than a dozen languages, including Hebrew and Yiddish, to the delight of readers, young and old, around the world.

The exhibition at the Museum offers visitors a rare opportunity to view nearly eighty original drawings and vibrant watercolors of Curious George and other characters. Many of these works have never been on display before. Preparatory dummy books, vintage photographs, and documentation related to the Reys’ escape from Nazi Europe, such as H. A. Rey’s journals detailing the couple’s perilous journey to freedom, are also included. One of the exhibition galleries will be transformed into a reading room for visitors of all ages inspired by the beloved monkey’s escapades in Curious George Flies a Kite.

In addition, the exhibition features an interactive timeline, accessed via a touch-screen computer, about the Reys’ life in France from the late 1930s through their fateful escape in the summer of 1940. Visitors will be able to view additional pages of H. A. Rey’s journal, detailing the couple’s journey to safety; images of illustrations by H. A. Rey; photographs taken by Margret Rey in France; documentary photography related to early World War II in France; and historic video. Audio interviews with the couple are also included.

For more information about the Mississippi Museum of Art’s exhibitions, programs, and special events, please call 601-960-1515 or 1-866-VIEW ART (843-9278), or visit www.msmuseumart.org

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