Turning the book jacket into a work of art
July 11th, 2012
Omaha, NE – The Joslyn Art Museum is exhibiting the works of an innovative illustrator who transformed the way authors and publishers considered the â€œlookâ€ of their books.
Fred Marcellino turned the book jacket into a work of art. Before the 1970s when he began a prolific career, book covers were generally viewed as utilitarian, a place to display the book title printed large and bold. But Marcellino reinvented the coverâ€™s purpose, using it to capture the emotion of the words inside. Nan Talese, an editor at Houghton Mifflin told the New York Times in 2001 that Marcellino could â€œin one image, translate the whole feeling and style of a book.â€
Marcellino was one of the leading book jacket designers for over a decade. But in the 1980s, he switched to childrenâ€™s book illustrations, eventually authoring his own book, I, Crocodile.
In an audio program hosted Tom Bodett that aired on NPR in 2001, Marcellino described the process of writing his first book. â€œIâ€™d been desperate to write a book for a number of years,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve illustrated about five or six picture books, but theyâ€™ve always been by other people. And Iâ€™ve been very frightened about the idea of writing my own book.â€
Marcellino said he found fragments of satire from the 19th century about a crocodile who was taken to Paris, and it was the starting point he needed.â€œThe character sort of leapt off the page as soon as I found him,â€ he said. â€œI sometimes felt I was taking dictation; that his character was so strong that he would just suggest what would happen next. I felt like I was a hired hand in some way.â€
Marcellino died in 2001 at age 61, before he could complete the sequel to I, Crocodile. But a selection of his vast works will be on display at the Joslyn Art Museumâ€™s Mindâ€™s Eye Gallery beginning Saturday. The collection includes several of Marcellinoâ€™s childrenâ€™s books as well as some of his most famous novel jackets.
Marcellinoâ€™s widow, Jean, will travel to Omaha this weekend, where she will visit informally with gallery guests.
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