Maurice Sendak's Unreleased, Opera-Inspired Drawings and Prints

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A look at the beloved children's author's more serious collaborations

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After yesterday's bittersweetly funny Sendak remembrance, a trip to his more serious and obscure past: In 2003, Sendak collaborated with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner on Brundibar—a WWII children's opera, originally written by Czech composer Hans Krása, which the duo adapted into a book illustrated by Sendak and an opera for which Sendak designed the sets and costumes. But Sendak's fascination with the opera dated back some three decades, to the 1970s, when he began collaborating with printmaker Kenneth Tyler while working on sets and costumes for Mozart's The Magic Flute and Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.

These operas inspired him to create a wealth of sketches, drawings, and watercolors. Some of them appeared in his beloved book Nutcracker and others were printed at Tyler Graphics between 1977 and 1984, and again in 2002, employing lithography and intaglio processes. But circumstances prevented any of these editions from being published. The inventory of rare proofs, collected here as the project's intaglio ghosts, was signed in 2002, and the prints divided three-ways between Sendak, to the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Print Collection, and to Tyler's own personal collection. Sendak went on to hand-watercolor some of the black-and-white intaglios, including Wild Thing and Ida.

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Wild thing, state (left) and state II

© Maurice Sendak


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Queen of the night

© Maurice Sendak


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Study for the magic flute

© Maurice Sendak


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Ida, state (left) and state VI

© Maurice Sendak


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Nutcracker 1984

© Maurice Sendak


Jen Bekman Printeresting

Images courtesy of the National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Print Collection

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings, an Atlantic partner site.

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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