Children's book illustrator Peter Sís at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art

Children's book illustrator Peter Sís at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art

[click “Play” to hear Susan’s conversation with Peter Sis]


Peter Sis As an artist/author, Peter Sís is equivalent of an Olympic gold medalist – only he never broke a sweat. Well, almost never. There were a few narrow escapes while living under Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, a story Peter tells in his newest book with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, “The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.”

Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic, said of the work: “Peter Sís’s book is most of all about the will to live one’s life in freedom and should be required reading for all those who take their freedom for granted.”

The MacArthur Fellow and internationally acclaimed illustrator, (he has won The New York Times Book Review’s “Best Illustrated Book of the Year” six times) author and laureled filmmaker is featured at an upcoming show at the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art – “From Beasts to Babar: Ten Children’s Illustrators.” The summer exhibition is a rare look into the world of 10 of the top children’s book illustrators on the planet, Peter Sis (pronounced “Cease”) included. The opening is July 28, 2011.

Peter was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, in 1949. He attended the Academy of Applied Arts in Prague and the Royal College of Art in London, and began his career as a filmmaker. In 1980 at the West Berlin Film Festival, Peter won the Golden Bear Award for an animated short. Honors continued to mount: the Grand Prix Toronto and the Cine Golden Eagle Award. In 1983, Peter Sis collaborated with Bob Dylan on “You Got to Serve Somebody.” His films work are now in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

In 1982, Peter was sent by the Czech government to Los Angeles to produce a film for the 1984 Winter Olympics. But the project was canceled when Czechoslovakia and the entire Eastern bloc decided to boycott the event. Ordered by his government to return home, Peter opted to stay in the United States, where he was granted asylum. A correspondence with Maurice Sendak led to a meeting and Peter’s introduction to children’s book editors. In 1984, Peter Sis moved to New York City to begin a new career. (Note: Sendak is also in the show.)

The medium may have changed, but not Peter Sis’s winning ways. Honors keep piling on for works such as “Rainbow Rhino,” “Beach Ball,” “Follow the Dream,” ” Komodo!,”  “The Three Golden Keys,” “The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin,”  “A Small Tall Tale from the Far Far North,” “Starry Messenger: Galileo Galilei,” “Madlenka,” “Madlenka’s Dog.”

In addition to his prolific career as an author, Peter Sís has contributed more than a thousand drawings to The New York Times Book Review and his illustrations have appeared in Time Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Newsweek, Esquire and many other magazines in the United States and abroad. Recently, he has completed a mural for the Washington/Baltimore Airport, a poster for the New York City subway system, and a stage set for the Joffrey Ballet. Peter lends his art to many different mediums and is known to paint on any surface he can find: chairs, eggs, boxes, seashells, even hats.

Perhaps the walls of the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.

We should be so lucky.

To learn more about this remarkable man, click the “play” button and listen to his interview.

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