Press Releases

The Global Artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon

For Release: March 2009

Akron, Ohio, March 16, 2009 — From the well loved characters of Dr. Seuss to Kadir Nelson’s historic portraits, the Akron Art Museum has a tradition of showing the work of world-renowned children’s book illustrators. This spring, the museum will continue that tradition by hosting an exhibition of work by the esteemed illustrating duo Leo and Diane Dillon, titled The Global Artistry of Leo and Diane Dillon. The exhibition will be on view March 28 – June 21, 2009 in the Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Gallery.

The husband and wife team have made an outstanding contribution to children of all cultures, producing spectacular illustrations together since 1957. Their illustrations are incredibly distinctive and all bear the couple’s trademark clean lines, innovative color use and attention to detail, as well as a warmth which radiates through each image, filling their characters with life.

The Dillons have earned many awards throughout their prolific career including two back to back Caldecott Medals for “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears” and “Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions,” four New York Times Best Illustrated Awards, four Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards, two Coretta Scott King Awards and the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal.

The pair both attended Parsons School for Design in New York City in 1954, and upon seeing one another’s work, even before being introduced, recognized and envied the other’s talent. Upon meeting, they formed a competitive friendship, which evolved into a relationship and then a loving marriage and successful artistic partnership.

In an interview with Karen Haber for Locus Magazine, Leo explains the development of their collaboration: “I’m constantly surprised at how our work is melding more and more as the years go on. In the beginning it was a conceived plan for us to work in a particular style we both could master. So in reality we were both working for someone else: the style.”

Diane goes on to explain the development of what they call the “third artist,” saying, “we could look at ourselves as one artist rather than two individuals, and that third artist was doing something neither one of us would do. We let it flow the way it flows when an artist is working by themselves and a color goes down that they didn’t quite expect and that affects the next colors they use, and it seems to have a life of its own.”

The couple’s works are essentially concerned with the shared experiences of the human condition; specifically with the idea that regardless of race and culture, “we have a lot in common. It is our beliefs that divide us. We have little control over what life brings us but we can change our thoughts.” Another facet of their works is a concern with artistic expression. “Art in its many forms has survived to inform us of lives long gone. Art inspires, lifts our spirits, and brings beauty to our lives. We wish to pay homage to it and to the people who created it.”

The exhibition’s display coincides with the 22nd annual Virginia Hamilton Conference at Kent State University. The conference, which will feature the Dillons as speakers, was established to provide a forum for the discussion of multicultural themes and issues in literature for youth.

This exhibition is made possible by a generous gift from The Sisler McFawn Foundation.

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