James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017), photo credit: ©Edwina Stevenson

James Stevenson The Sea View Hotel. Unpublished Image. Page 19. Black ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of the Estate of James Stevenson. Photo by Paul Mutino.

James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017), Mud Flat Spring, New York: Greenwillow Books, 1999, page 28. Courtesy of the Estate of James Stevenson. Photo credit: Paul Mutino.

James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017), Mud Flat Spring, New York: Greenwillow Books, 1999, page 11. Courtesy of the Estate of James Stevenson. Photo credit: Paul Mutino.

James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017 Grandpa’s Too-Good Garden, New York: Greenwillow Books, 1989, page 25. Courtesy of the Estate of James Stevenson. Photo credit: Paul Mutino.

James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017), photo credit: Malcolm Greenway

Fun / No Fun: Children’s Book Art by James Stevenson

December 13, 2020 - January 11, 2021

Fun / No Fun: Children's Book Art by James Stevenson Curator's Tour

Kids know him as the author and illustrator of hundreds of children’s books that induce fits of giggles with silliness voiced in an honest, simple, and gentle way. Deftly drawn with an assured line and colored with soft watercolor washes, Stevenson’s whimsical sketches evoke a sense of memory and nostalgia.  The understated drawings are populated by a cast of characters in settings that Stevenson conjured precisely to suit the story.  A 1990 New York Times article articulates how movies, a favorite entertainment, were his inspiration in the development of children’s books, ''You cast, write the script, set design, find the right actors, people you care about, have them say the right things, find locations, the right stove for the kitchen.''  In a 2019 documentary, Stevenson - Lost and Found, his family describes how the self-taught artist was always sketching and that the familial soundtrack was accompanied by the constant scratching of his pen on paper. 

Deep are his connections to Connecticut and Greenwich in particular. Jim grew up in Croton-on-Hudson in Westchester County, raised his family of nine children in Old Black Point on the Connecticut shore, and settled in Cos Cob with his second wife, Josie Merck.

The Bruce Museum will present a fun exhibition of Stevenson’s children’s book art from the artist’s archives that will explore the seasonal delights to which kids of all ages can relate—the joys of building a snow fort, tormenting your friends with skunk cabbage, summer camp camaraderie, and leaping into a leaf pile.

James Stevenson (American, 1929-2017), A Village Full of Valentines. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1995, pages 38-39. Courtesy of the Estate of James Stevenson. Photo credit: Paul Mutino.

A few James Stevenson Children's Book Covers