November 2, 2009, New York City--Hilary Knight, the artist best-known for creating the classic character Eloise with Kay Thompson, is donating the papers documenting his extensive career as an illustrator and author over more than 50 years to The New York Public Library. The collection includes wide-ranging materials relating to Eloise but also documents most of the nearly 60 books Mr. Knight has created as well as his work crafting Broadway posters, magazine illustrations, greeting cards, calendars, and advertisements. The collection not only includes sketches, research, dummies and final layouts, but contracts, correspondence, publicity materials, reviews and other items capturing the entire process of creating his works. The gift was announced November 2, by Library President Paul LeClerc, at its annual Library Lions dinner where Mr. Knight was an honoree.
“Eloise is an icon of New York,” said Dr. LeClerc, “a classic character who has represented the verve and excitement of Manhattan for generations of readers. We are very pleased that her heritage will be preserved in the heart of the City, here at The New York Public Library, along with the rest of the striking, imaginative works that Hilary Knight has envisioned and realized in his accomplished career.”
“Manhattan has been my home since the 1930s when I moved there as a child with my parents, artists/writers Clayton Knight and Katharine Sturges,” said Mr. Knight. The New York Public Library, and particularly its extraordinary Picture Collection, has been an invaluable help to me during my career. So it is a special honor that my work will join the Library’s collections. And Eloise herself is absolutely thrilled with her new residence.
Eloise is the spunky, imaginative, industrious, and mischievous six year-old girl who lives in the Plaza Hotel, where she delights in entertaining herself and spicing up the lives of the staff members and guests who surround her. Eloise was a conception of Kay Thompson, a well-known nightclub performer and personality, but it was Knight whose meticulous and witty drawings gave form to Eloise and defined the vivid world around her. Published originally in 1955, the book gradually became beloved by a generation of readers. The original Eloise was followed by Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmastime, Eloise in Moscow, and Eloise Takes a Bawth.
“We are delighted and honored that Hilary Knight has chosen The New York Public Library as the home for his creative archive,” said David Ferriero, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of The New York Public Libraries. “What could be more New York than Eloise and Hilary Knight?!”
Among the items documenting the evolution of Eloise is a drawing Mr. Knight created for Mademoiselle magazine in 1952, before he met Thompson, showing a young girl with features similar to those that eventually characterized Eloise. The collection also includes trial pen and ink drawings from 1954, that match Kay Thompson’s text and allowed Knight to show his concepts for the character to the author. Among these are the earliest images of Eloise’s dog Weenie (“I have a dog that looks like a cat”), her turtle Skipperdee, and a drawing of Eloise and Skipperdee together in the bath.
A unique item in the collection is a colored pencil sketch of the painting of Eloise by Mr. Knight that hangs in the Plaza. Mr. Knight is also donating his Eloise scrapbook, in which he kept the reviews, articles, promotional materials and other item documenting the whirlwind of activity that resulted from Eloise’s striking success after its release in 1955. The collection also includes the original illustrations, sketches, dummy, publicity, reviews research photos, and early drawings for Eloise Takes a Bawth, which Knight conceived with Thompson in the 1960s but was not published until 2002.
Aside from materials relating to Eloise, the collection includes detailed documentation of Knight’s other books. Included are the original drawings, sketches, dummies, research, publicity and other materials for such works as The Circus is Coming, a colorful, stylized depiction of the circus parade, originally published in 1978, Where’s Wallace, the classic 1964 book of detailed panoramas in which readers search for a hidden Orangatang, and Sunday Morning, written by Judith Viorst, which features gorgeous stylized silhouettes to tell the story of two boys who try to follow their parents’ wishes to sleep in on Sunday. Also included are materials relating to Knight’s classic theatre posters created for such shows as Irene and No, No Nanette, as well as drawings he has created in recent years for Vanity Fair, where he is a contributing editor.
Hilary Knight was born November 1, 1926 in Roslyn, New York, and is the son of artist-writers Clayton King and Katharine Sturges. He was educated at the Art Students’ League, where he studied with Reginald Marsh. Besides the Eloise books, Hilary Knight has illustrated some sixty books for children, six of which he wrote himself. In 2009, Mr. Knight has found in The New York Public Library a home for his work and a second home for the Plaza Hotel’s most illustrious resident, Eloise, who incredibly (still being six) celebrates her 55th year in 2010.
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