Ezra Jack Keats At The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Ezra Jack Keats At The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Tess Wilson
Nov 25, 2011

Whether your day-after-Thanksgiving is snowy, rainy, or blazing-bright, it seems like the perfect day to gaze at the calm, rich, and full-of-personality illustrations of the great Ezra Jack Keats. And if you can make it to the exhibit at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum to gaze in person, so much the better..

Keats, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, grew up in Brooklyn and taught himself to paint- going on to illustrate 80 children's books. The Snowy Day is beloved for Peter's pointy hat, the single set of footprints in the snow, the sense of potential, and for being the "first modern full-color picture book to feature an African-American protagonist", as the Contemporary Jewish Museum points out. I love this quote from Keats: "If we all could really see ('see' as perceive, understand, discover) each other exactly as the other is, this would be a different world.", and this one from author Sherman Alexie: "It was the first time I looked at a book and saw a brown, black, beige character--a character who resembled me physically and spiritually, in all his gorgeous loneliness and splendid isolation." The phrase "gorgeous loneliness" is so perfect for describing the wonder of city life that Keats was able to capture: often run-down, often lonely, but always interesting. Here are a few of my favorite images...

  • The endless drifts of snow! Windblown against fences, in the briefest window before the snow is rendered grey and gross by traffic.
  • Can't you just feel what Peter is feeling? The cold seeping through the window panes, the still-warm blankets, the wish that today will be different, and special.
  • Check out the dress on that cutie! Will Missoni make a version?
  • Giant yellow floral wallpaper: discuss.
  • This is definitely my favorite version of a stained-glass lampshade that I've ever seen. And the chair-dress floral combination? Nice.

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco until February 24, 2012 oops! I was too excited! It will be at CJM November 15, 2012 - February 24, 2013. Do you have a favorite Keats illustration?

Images: 1. The Snowy Day via LMNOP 2. The Snowy Day via Ohdeedoh 3. Jennie's Hat via art.com 4. Louie's Search via Tablet Magazine 5. Whistle For Willie via letslookupandsmile, all by Ezra Jack Keats

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