English 430: Literature & the Visual Arts

Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak

Illustrator and Writermaurice_sendak_big

Maurice Sendak was Born in Brooklyn, New York, to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents in 1928.

•He was the youngest of three children

•His Jewish family had immigrated to the United States from Poland before World War I and lost many of their relatives to the Holocaust during World War II.

Throughout the 1950s, Sendak worked regularly, producing nearly fifty illustrated children’s books.

Instructor at Parsons School of Design and Yale University.


As PBS posted, towards the late 1970s Maurice Sendak began to produce and design performances. He put on various operas which included Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” and also turned WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE into an opera as well as designed the a production of Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker”.

Sendak wrote WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE in a “running text style”.

Sections of books that Sendak has written or illustrated have been done with inspiration of his personal memories as stated in his brief biography, “For example, the monsters in Where the Wild Things Are were inspired by the artist’s hated Brooklyn relatives. “I wanted the wild things to be frightening,” Sendak remarked in The Art of Maurice Sendak. “But why? It was probably at this point that I remembered how I detested my Brooklyn relatives as a small child…. They’d lean way over with their bad teeth and hairy noses, and say something threatening like ‘You’re so cute I could eat you up.’ And I knew if my mother didn’t hurry up with the cooking, they probably would.’”

where the wild things are maurice_sendak

in the kitchen sendak

Similar to his inspiration for WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Sendak continued to be inspired by his life events. His brief biography describes that “In 1967 Sendak suffered a heart attack, then lost his mother and beloved Sealyham terrier, Jennie, to cancer. Two years later, his father also died. After these tragic events, the artist left New York City and moved to Connecticut.” He used his illustrations and writing to find closure to his own personal life events as he did in, “ In the Night Kitchen “to … say goodbye to New York,” as he told Martha Shirk in a Chicago Tribune article, “and say goodbye to my parents, and tell a little bit about the narrow squeak I had just been through.” In the story, Mickey’s brush with death when he is nearly baked in a cake symbolizes Sendak’s own close call. In the Night Kitchen, the artist concluded in a New York Times article by Lisa Hammel, is about his “victory over death.”’

To Sendak all his stories are related as is explained in a brief biography , ‘“in The Art of Maurice Sendak, they “are all variations on the same theme: how children master various feelings—anger, boredom, fear, frustration, jealousy—and manage to come to grips with the realities of their lives.’”

outsideoverthere maurice sendak




Sendak discussed the censoring of a recent book Some Swell Pup; or, Are You Sure You Want a Dog? Are You Sure You Want a Dog? that is spoken about in his brief biography in which, ‘“According to Sendak in a New York Times article by Bernard Holland, censoring books that portray some of the facts of life to children is more for the benefit of the adult than the child: “Children are willing to expose themselves to experiences. We aren’t. Grownups always say they protect their children, but they’re really protecting themselves. Besides, you can’t protect children. They know everything.’”


sendak 2

Sendak continues to remember what childhood was like and the form in which children viewed the world. He continues to be able to related to children and through his writing and illustrations he communicates to both children and adults. In his brief biography he it states that Sendak said, “‘We’ve all passed the same places only I remember the geography, and most people forget it. The writing and the picture-making are merely a means to an end,” he commented in Down the Rabbit Hole. “It has never been for me a graphic matter—or even, for that matter, a word matter!,” he added “To discuss a children’s book in terms of its pictorial beauty—or prose style—is not to the point. It is the particular nugget of magic it achieves—if it achieves. It has always only been a means—a handle with which I can swing myself into—somewhere or other—the place I’d rather be.’”

The following is a video in which he speaks about his childhood and the his inspiration behind his work is provided by YouTube. It is titled:

Maurice Sendak on his work, childhood, inspirations





<a href=”http://biography.jrank.org/pages/1957/Sendak-Maurice-1928.html”>Maurice Sendak (1928–) Biography – Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Adaptations, Sidelights</a>

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