Remy Charlip, an acclaimed children's book author and artist whose accomplishments spanned many fields, forms, audiences and years, passed away last week at the age of 83.
Charlip was best known as the author or illustrator of nearly 40 books, most for children. His most popular works, Fortunately (1964), which follows the alternating fortunes of a young boy, remains in print after more than 45 years. The book has been published around the world.
Along with his long career as a children's book author -- which dates to the mid-1950s, Charlip was also a noted dancer and choreographer and a founding member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He was with that distinguished group for 11 years, as both a dancer and as a set and costume designer. He was succeeded in the latter role by artist Robert Rauschenberg.
Charlip was also a member of the Living Theater and the Judson Dance Theater, and a co-founder of the Paper Bag Players, a children's theater group. For this work, he won two Obie Awards, one in 1965 for his work with the Paper Bag Players and another in 1966 for directing "A Beautiful Day" at the Judson Poets Theater in Greenwich Village.
And if that wasn't enough, Charlip was also an influential educator, artist, book designer, and friend to other creative icons -- like Edward Gorey. And, he was a muse to others still. Contemporary composer Lou Harrison wrote music in his honor, namely two of his "Seven Pastorales."
Because he bore strong resemblance to George Méliès, Brian Selznick used Charlip as the model for his drawings of the pioneering filmmaker in The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Selznick's now-famous illustrated novel (which served as the basis for the Martin Scorsese film Hugo), is also dedicated to Charlip. The dedication was a favor returned. On his website, Selznick states, "When I was a kid, several of his books were favorites of mine, including Fortunately, Thirteen, and Handtalk: An ABC of Finger Spelling & Sign Language."
Following his death, Charlip's remarkable life was detailed in an obit which ran in the New York Times. His work as a dancer was detailed in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle. And, his career as a children's book author was surveyed in Publishers Weekly. His many accomplishments in the realm of dance, the performing arts and the avant-garde were outlined in a reprinted piece by artist John Held in SFAQ: International Arts and Culture.
Remy Charlip was many things -- and always young at heart. The world, without a doubt, is a lesser place without him. In no particular order, here are ten of his notable books. Some remain in print, some are now out-of-print. Each is recommended. Which is your favorite?
Thomas Gladysz is an arts journalist who writes on books and authors and other things. His interview with Allen Ginsberg was included "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" (National Gallery of Art). He also wrote the introduction to the Louise Brooks edition of Margarete Bohme's classic novel, The Diary of a Lost Girl (PandorasBox Press). More at www.thomasgladysz.com.