The Original Art is an annual exhibit created to showcase illustrations from the year’s best children’s books published in the U.S. For editors and art directors, it’s an inspiration and a treasure trove of talent to draw upon. For art students, it’s a marvelous opportunity to examine—up close—the work of the best in the field. And for the public, it’s a chance to appreciate the enormous range of creativity in children’s books and to see the printed pages alongside the original paintings, drawings, prints, and collages they represent.
Founded by painter, art director, and artists’ representative Dilys Evans, The Original Art was first exhibited in 1979 at the Master Eagle Gallery in New York City. On display was the work of a wide variety of artists, some well-known and well-loved, some newcomers to the field. The show was an instant success, even receiving a proclamation of appreciation from the mayor’s office, and it has been popular ever since.
In 1989, The Original Art found a permanent home at the Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City. It also became a juried event, with a committee of art directors, editors,publishers and illustrators selecting the best books from among hundreds of submissions and awarding Gold and Silver medals to the top pieces. This year’s Gold medalist is Laëtitia Devernay for her book The Conductor (Chronicle Books), and the Silver medalists are Jon Klassen for This is Not My Hat (Candlewick Press) and Steve Jenkins for The Beetle Book (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children). The Brothers Hilts, illustrators of The Insomniacs (G.P. Putnam's Sons), are winner of the Founder’s Award, given to the most promising new talent in the field.
After the exhibit closes in New York, select pieces travel to galleries, museums, and exhibit halls across the country for a year. At the end of that time, the art is returned to its creators, and the books are donated by the Society to children’s charities.