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Inspiration in the Picture Collection: Louis Slobodkin

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For the famous or for those aspring to be, for those who have a job to do, an assignment to finish, or for those just doing what they love, the Picture Collection has long been a valuable resource and source of inspiration.

On May 20, 1944 the Picture Collection received a thank-you letter from Louis Slobodkin.

Slobodkin was a sculptor, author, and illustrator and a regular user of the Picture Collection.

Art - Sculpture - Federal Building Competition - Louis Slobodkin with runner-up sculpture, Unity, Digital ID 1654146, New York Public LibraryIn 1939 he was runner-up in a sculpture contest associated with the New York World's Fair. He was awarded $10,000 (the equivalent of receiving $165,030.22 today!) for his statue of a young rail-splitting Abraham Lincoln. In 1941 he headed up the sculpture division of the Works Progress Administration.

It was during this time that he started the work he is most known for. He illustrated numerous books for Eleanor Estes, including The Moffats (1941), The Middle Moffat (1942), Rufus M (1943), and The Hundred Dresses (1944). In 1943 he illustrated Many Moons, by James Thurber, which went on to win the Caldecott Medal for 1944.

The Caldecott Medal was first awarded in 1938 and is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. It was upon winning this prestigious award that Louis Slobodkin wrote a letter of thanks Romana Javitz, then head of the Picture Collection, stating "I am particularly grateful to you and your grand staff of the picture collection for the gracious and efficient service you render all artists and help some of us get a break like this Caldecott Award."

Louis Slobodkin lived in the Bronx but his studio was at 333 Fourth Avenue, just a few blocks southeast from the Picture Collection. I like to imagine Slobodkin leaving his studio for a nice ten minute walk to the Library to look for inspiration.

For almost one hundred years the Picture Collection has inspired New Yorkers to create. Has the Collection inspired you? We would love to hear your story!

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