Spring 2006 Table of Contents.
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 Art for Books' Sake. Story by Charles Reineke.


'And what is the use of a book without pictures... ?" asks Alice at the beginning of her Adventures in Wonderland. It's meant, of course, as a rhetorical question: For Alice -- and the countless artists, illustrators and publishers who think like her -- books without pictures are useless indeed.

Joan Stack, associate curator of European and American art at MU's Museum of Art and Archaeology, understands this love for art in books and books as art. She hopes others will too. Even in our Age of the iPod, she says, the power of print publication endures. "I want to get people excited about books who haven't thought much about them before," she says.

Toward that end, Stack, along with the rare books staff of Ellis Library, is dusting off a rich sampling of seldom-seen masterworks from MU's collections. The exhibition, to be called "The Art of the Book: Illustration and Design, 1650 to Present," will open Sept. 16 and run through Dec. 24 in the museum's Pickard Hall galleries. It will include dozens of engravings, etchings and lithographs by some of the world's most famous artists, including William Blake, Eugene Delacroix, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Some of the works, such as Delacroix's dark image of a flying Mephistopheles (reprinted here on Page 23), are pretty heavy going. Others, like Claes Oldenburg's colorful cake (shown on the same page), are calculated to appeal to all ages.

"I hope our younger visitors especially, who are far less used to books than to computer screens, can come away from a visit with an appreciation for books as wonderful objects that can be experienced on a number of different levels," Stack says. This includes, she adds, simply looking at the pictures: "What's interesting about many of these books is that the art they contain wasn't necessarily created to be seen in conjunction with the experience of reading, which gives the art a special kind of resonance."

The Museum of Art and Archaeology is open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. Admission to "The Art of the Book: Illustration and Design, 1650 to Present" will be free and open to the public.

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Published by the Office of Research.

©2006 Curators of the University of Missouri. Click here to contact the editor.