Beginning Thursday night, Aug. 25, Clayton Lane Fine Arts will be hosting the fine art of Ted Geisel -- known to the world as the one and only Dr. Seuss. This rare exhibition of reproductions from Geisel's never-before-seen personal collection runs through the end of October at Clayton Lane.
Bill Dreyer, the National Curator of the Seuss Art exhibit, will be telling stories, providing insights into Geisel's artistic life, his unique vision and impact on American culture starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday and then again on Friday.
This exhibition is held in conjunction with the release of a new coffee-table book collecting Geisel's personal work titled, "Dr. Seuss's Secrets of the Deep: The Lost, Forgotten, and Hidden Works of Theodor Seuss Geisel", a collector's volume featuring many of the pieces in the exhibit.
Dreyer sat down with The Huffington Post and spoke about about these personal images of Geisel's and gave a little taste of the kind of stories he'll tell at Clayton Lane.
What are these 'secret' art works of Geisel's?
One of the things we've been trying to do for the last ten years is bring Geisel's artistic legacy to light. Obviously, his legacy in children's literature will always be his biggest calling card and it should be, but his artistic legacy is little known, is extensive, and has basically been a secret amongst art collectors for years.
While researching Ted's paintings and sculptures at his La Jolla home, it was discovered that he and his wife Audrey kept more than forty artworks behind a concealed false door that were publicly unknown and unpublished. Secretly, Ted wanted to be recognized as a serious artist, but in public, he was quick to describe his private works dismissively as 'midnight paintings.'
So at night, Ted was privately painting and creating sculptures for himself, for his own personal enjoyment and pleasure. And that's what is represented in this exhibition. These are posthumous reproductions of those secret works that have now been made available for museum exhibition and private collection. Ted never intended these works to be displayed until the end of his life when he told his wife, 'I want you to bring these artworks out, but not until I'm gone.' He requested that. Audrey has given permission to show these works publicly now that Seuss has passed away.
What separates his fine art from his children's literature work?
What is held below the surface in his children's books is completely on the surface in his fine art work. You see the anxiety, the adult nature of the humor, it comes out, in some ways, quite boldly in these pieces.
Ted didn't share this work during his lifetime, he knew he would not have been given his artistic due, he probably would have been panned by fine art critics. I think he understood this. And he never wanted a conflict between his fine art work and his children's book work. If you look at this body of work within the context of the American icon that he became -- this work is brilliant. He was smart to wait and we're fortunate to finally get a peek at his secret works.
What was Geisel like privately?
He was many things, but professionally he was concerned about his career, like any of us are, he faced anxiety about his upcoming books, all of that. But, he was quite a prankster too. His painting 'Green Cat With Lights' is a prime of example of this. The bottom of this painting is signed 'Strugo Von M,' it is remarkable because all of his paintings were signed 'Dr. Seuss.' Well, his wife Audrey said that he would hang that painting in the front of the house and say, 'That's my Strugo Von M, how do you like it?' Not letting people know he painted it. One of his great practical jokes. He didn't want to be known as a fine artist while living, but he did still want the response and reaction to this more personal style of his work.
This came in to being with the Clayton Lane fine art gallery owned by American Design. Paul and Bonnie Zuger are the owners of American Design, they have been such great people in the art world for nearly 25 or 30 years. Theirs was one of the first galleries to bring in some of Geisel fine art, they brought pieces into their gallery almost a decade ago for private collectors. They saw the potential of Geisel as a 20th century fine artist early on, showing his work along side Warhol, Rembrandt, Picasso and other significant old and new masters. Paul and Bonnie have been doing this for ten years and now museums are finally coming on board. Lots of big exhibitions are in the works in the coming months.
Dreyer will be at Clayton Lane Thursday and Friday telling revealing, moving and funny stories about the legendary Ted Geisel. To learn more about Dr. Seuss's secret art visit the Art of Dr. Seuss website.
Ted Geisel's most iconic self-portrait ran in the July 6, 1957 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Appearing just four months after the launch of The Cat in the Hat, this classic portrait depicts Dr. Seuss as his mischievous alter ego, complete with red and white stovepipe hat, cat ears, and the Cat's now famous red bow tie. Dreyer: 'Geisel did three self portraits that I'm aware of. This self portrait is him telling us there is this interesting combination with Dr. Seuss the persona and Ted Geisel the artist. The cat in the hat is a wily, mischievous character and Geisel was also a tall, wily, mischievous man. The cat is his alter ego, it's the cat that built his house.'
Cuddle Fish was kept close at hand by Ted throughout his lifetime which to this day resides with Audrey in the Geisel home. In the vein of the Horton Line Drawing, this work exudes classic Seussian charm and confirms the Good Doctor's breezy artistic talent.
Ted Geisel's symphonic masterpiece was first published as a black and white center-spread in Judge Magazine on January 2, 1932. This melodious artwork embodies all the best of Dr. Seuss's musically exaggerated imagination and is an early hallmark which set the stage for an elaborate history of made-up vehicles, machines and instruments.
Dreyer: 'He's actually making fun of La Jolla socialites. He moves to La Jolla around 1948 and he starts making fun of the California socialites. Maybe these are fundraisers, museum operators. Look how diminutive he is and how large they are. He's making a clear statement about the nature of these wealthy socialites. This is the only painting that ever sold and he only did it to support an art center. This is one of about 13 Ja Jolla bird women paintings.'