Current and coming: Wild Things in Columbus, Ohio

Sammy Dalati Art

Design for a poster to advertise Glyndebourne’s (Lewes, England) operatic productions of Where the Wild Things Are and Higglety Pigglety Pop! by Maurice Sendak (1928–2012), 1985. Maurice Sendak Foundation, Ridgefield, Connecticut, ©The Maurice Sendak Foundation; photograph ©The Maurice Sendak Foundation, courtesy of the Columbus Museum of Art.

Who among us, sent to bed without supper as a child for misbehaving, did not dream of being Max, king of the Wild Things, for a night? In the dozen children’s books he wrote and illustrated—chief among them his best-known and most enduring, Where the Wild Things Are—Maurice Sendak displayed uncommonly deep insight into the youthful psyche. He is credited with bringing the genre to maturity—taking children’s literature out of the sweet, safe worlds of Beatrix Potter et al. by creating characters who are alternately willful and wracked by anxiety, just like real children.

Besides his own, Sendak also illustrated more than one hundred books by other writers, among them Shakespeare, Melville, and Tolstoy, in a protean range of styles— including lush, quasi-surrealist scenes, impressionistic landscapes, and delicately crosshatched interiors. He also designed sets and costumes for theater, ballet, and opera, notably a production of The Magic Flute by Mozart, whose music Sendak said he loved above all else.

The full scope of Sendak’s repertoire is represented at the Columbus Museum of Art in the first major retrospective of Sendak’s work since his death in 2012. Curated by Jonathan Weinberg of the Maurice Sendak Foundation, the exhibition features more than 150 paintings, storyboards, sketches, and designs by Sendak. The show will travel after it closes in Columbus, with a first stop planned later this year in Paris at the Museum of Jewish Art and History. Let the wild rumpus begin!

Wild Things Are Happening: The Art of Maurice Sendak • Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio • to March 5 •