Maurice Sendak Collection Leaves Philadelphia Museum

A pen-and-ink watercolor dummy book for Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are from 1963. Photo: courtesy the estate of Maurice Sendak.

Philadelphia’s Rosenbach Museum and Library may be a small museum, but it is home to some 10,200 drawings, manuscripts, proofs, and rare editions by Maurice Sendak, thanks to its nearly 50-year-long relationship with the late children’s book author. Now, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, most of those treasures must be given back to the artist’s estate.

Sendak died in 2012 at age 83, leaving his collection to his eponymous foundation in his will. The artwork was never officially gifted to the museum, and based on his original 1969 agreement with the Rosenbach, Sendak’s trustees will reclaim 98 percent of the collection, leaving just 600 pieces in Philadelphia. In accordance with Sendak’s wishes, his former home in Ridgefield, Connecticut, will become a museum and study center.

Maurice Sendak reads <em>Where the Wild Things Are</em> to a child. Photo: courtesy the estate of Maurice Sendak.

Maurice Sendak reads Where the Wild Things Are to a child.
Photo: Courtesy the estate of Maurice Sendak.

“The agreement allowed him great freedom, but we hoped to earn his trust and loyalty, and the hope was that a collection would be there permanently,” Seattle Art Museum director and former Rosenbach curator Kimerly Rorschach told the Inquirer. “It’s a huge loss. I am sorry about it for Philadelphia and the Rosenbach. I can see the charm of having it at his house. I’ve visited, and it’s an enchanting place. But it won’t be so easily accessible.”

Though he retained the ownership of his own work for his foundation, Sendak did leave his collection of rare books and a $2 million bequest to the Rosenbach, in addition to a $1 million gift made during his lifetime. His will instructs the museum and the estate to work together, making future loans of his work to the Philadelphia institution quite likely.

There have been at least 72 exhibitions of Sendak’s work at the Rosenbach since 1970, highlighting original artwork from such classics as Chicken Soup With Rice, In the Night Kitchen, and Where the Wild Things Are. The museum will begin sending materials to Connecticut next month, a process that could take the rest of the year.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia. Photo: David M Warren, courtesy the <em>Philadelphia Inquirer</em>.

The Rosenbach Museum and Library, Philadelphia.
Photo: David M Warren, courtesy the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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