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Magician of Colors--Children's Book Illustrator Brian Wildsmith

Brian Wildsmith

The exhibition "Fantasia from a Fairyland: Brian Wildsmith and His World of Illustrations and Picture Books" opened at the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum (TFAM) in Hachioji, Tokyo, on April 28 to celebrate 40 years of the British author-illustrator's career. Renowned for brilliant illustrations that border on fine art, Brian Wildsmith is often referred to as a "magician of colors."

This retrospective exhibition of Mr. Wildsmith's work includes 165 representative illustrations from 50 books as well as a sampling of posters and other artwork. Mr. Wildsmith has illustrated over 80 books, four of which were written by TFAM founder Daisaku Ikeda: The Snow Country Prince, The Cherry Tree, Over the Deep Blue Sea and The Princess and the Moon.

The artist's work is imbued with his deep affection for children and his respect for their boundless potential. His world of vivid imagery--whimsical animals with lively expressions and flowers and trees overflowing with striking splashes of color--sparks children's own creativity. At a special exhibition preview, Mr. Wildsmith commented that children's souls are like the blank pages of a book onto which must be impressed love, humor, compassion, truth, the ability to tell right from wrong, and justice.

From Squirrels, 1974

In a message written for the exhibition opening, he stated: "My life has been dedicated to producing picture books for children that I hope reflect this love, helping them observe, comprehend and appreciate the wondrous world that they have been born into. I want to help them climb the mountain of life and reach the peak of enlightenment and fulfillment. This is the basic right of every child born on our Earth."

Born in 1930 in the mining village of Penistone in Yorkshire, England, Brian Wildsmith won a scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art where he studied for three years. In 1960, he embarked on a career as an illustrator of children's books. His first work, Brian Wildsmith's ABC (1962), won him the U.K.'s prestigious Kate Greenaway medal.

From Cat on the Mat, 1982

Much more than a children's picture book illustrator, Mr. Wildsmith is a philosopher at heart. He says: "The stories in my paintings are about the world in which we live. Everything is living--animals, birds, bees, people, flowers--and each has its own soul. I try to express that inner soul." His creations reflect a philosophy brimming with compassion and profound insight into children's hearts and minds. He feels that children should be introduced early to art and culture: "I believe that beautiful picture books of the right kind are vitally important in subconsciously forming a child's visual appreciation, which will bear fruit in later life."

In a lecture on May 3 at TFAM to mark the opening of the exhibition, Mr. Wildsmith shared personal anecdotes of the trials and tribulations he faced before finally launching a successful career as a children's book illustrator. He also said that showering love upon children, who have such pure minds and hearts, will help them become caring adults who will contribute to their communities and to making the world a better place.

From The Cherry Tree, 1991
From The Princess and the Moon, 1991
From Daisy, 1984
From Brian Wildsmith's ABC (Lion), 1962
From Animal Games (Bears), 1980
From The North Wind and the Sun, 1964
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