November 14, 2010–March 13, 2011
(L)H. A. Rey, final illustration for “This is George. He lived in Africa,” published in The Original Curious George (1998), France, 1939–40, watercolor, charcoal, and color pencil on paper. H. A. & Margret Rey Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. (R)H. A. Rey, unpublished drawing, United States, c. 1950s–60s, pencil on paper. H. A. & Margret Rey Papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Curious George, and related characters, created by Margret and H. A. Rey, are copyrighted and trademarked by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. © 2010 by HMH.
Curious George, the impish monkey protagonist of many adventures, may never have seen the light of day if it were not for the determination and courage of his creators, the illustrator H. A. Rey (1898–1977) and his wife, author and artist Margret Rey (1906–1996).
Born in Hamburg to Jewish families, they lived together in Paris from 1936 to 1940. Hours before the Nazis marched into Paris in June 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles, carrying drawings for their children’s stories including one about a mischievous monkey, then named Fifi. Not only were they able to save the characters, but the Reys themselves were saved by their illustrations when authorities found them in their belongings, which may explain why saving the day after a narrow escape became the premise of most Curious George stories.
After their fateful escape from Paris and a four-month journey across France, Spain, Portugal, and Brazil, the couple reached New York in the fall of 1940. In all, the Reys authored and illustrated over 30 books, most of them for children, seven starring Curious George.
The exhibition features nearly 80 original drawings of the beloved monkey and other characters, preparatory dummy books, vintage photographs, and documentation related to the Reys’ escape from Nazi Europe, as well as a specially designed reading room for visitors of all ages.
Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey was organized by The Jewish Museum, New York. The exhibition is supported by a bequest from the Estate of Lore Ross.
The San Francisco presentation was generously supported by the Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, James Irvine Foundation, Roselyne Chroman Swig, PNC Foundation, Chara Schreyer and Gordon Freund, and Julie and David M. Levine.
Koret and Taube Foundations are the lead supporters of the 2010/11 exhibition season.