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 1980 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 1990, 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 children's book artists, art directors, editors, and publishers selecting the best books from among hundreds of submissions and awarding Gold and Silver medals to the top pieces.
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.