Leo Lionni:

March 15 - May 31, 1990

Curated by Nina Castelli Sundell

detail of Maze, 1987


Imaginary Garden, 1976, 14 1/2" x 20 3/4"




As a designer and author, Leo Lionni is a recognized master who has enriched and expanded the world's visual vocabulary. Mr. Lionni is also an artist who makes drawings investigating a fantastic and strange world of his own invention. It is a great pleasure to be able to present an exhibition of his drawings, and we thank Mr. Lionni for this very special opportunity.

This exhibition was organized by Nina Castelli Sundell, who was the director of the Lehman College Art Gallery from its inception in 1984 until recently. Her vision, curatorial expertise, and dedication have established the Gallery as one of the most important exhibition sites in the area. We cannot adequately thank her for all her hard work on the Leo Lionni exhibition and catalog, and for all she has done at Lehman.

We extend our special thanks to Mr. Brian Swann for his contribution to the catalog. We are also very grateful to the New York State Council on the Arts; Alfred A. Knopf, New York; and the Friends of Lehman College for their generous support of this exhibition.

Many others helped to make this exhibition possible: the staff, installation crew, volunteers, and docents of the Lehman College Art Gallery; staff of the College Relations Department of Lehman College; photographer Peter Muscato, and Susan Black who worked on the catalog. We thank them all.

Jane Farver



Bark Flower, 1973, 29" x 20 1/2"



Leo Lionni is best known today for his children's books: Little Blue and Little Yellow; Frederick—the one about the mouse who gathers poems while his family is harvesting seeds for the winter—Swimmy the Fish. Of course the children don't remember his name, but to parents and grandparents, the ones who actually do the reading, he is something of a celebrity. Most people don't realize that Lionni is also one of the 20th-century's most influential graphic designers. Within that field, he is a legend. In fact, he didn't start doing children's books until he had left the world of advertising, teaching, and design to allow more time for contemplation and for art. Little Blue and Little Yellow (1959) began as an improvised entertainment for bored grandchildren. What can you do with a few scraps of colored paper and a lot of imagination ? Make the first best-selling children's book illustrated with abstract art. Before that his work as design director for Olivetti Corporation of America and the art director of Fortune magazine, the co-founder of the Aspen Design Conference, and editor of Print had revolutionized graphic design in America. He designed the Family of Man exhibition catalogue for the Museum of Modern Art, and posters for UNESCO and the American Cancer Society; so, in one way or another, most of us have already seen a lot of Lionni's art without having been aware of it. some extent, the visual sensibility of several generations has been partly shaped by his work. In the more rarified genres of fine art he is less well known. His work has been far less visible especially in the U.S., and because it fits into none of the categories that have preoccupied the recent art world, it has been metaphorically invisible as well. Now, in the less doctrinaire atmosphere that prevails, it is perhaps more possible to see and delight in these elegant explorations of an imaginary natural world.

Nina Castelli Sundell
Guest Curator


From Scratch, 1982, 13 3/8" x 22 3/8"




All works in pencil on paper and loaned by the artist unless otherwise noted.

Four of seven Botanical Drawings for the suite of
lithographs Sette Foglie, 1972, Pencil and ink on pa-
per, 18 3/4" x 14" each

Ecce Homo, 1972, 21" x29 1/2"

Night and Day, 1973, Pencil and Watercolor on paper, 20 1/2" x 28 1/2''

Bark Flower, 1973, 29" x 201/2"

Six Seguriae, c. 1976, 20 3/4" x 27 3/4"

Broken Segurya, 27 3/8" x 20 3/4"

Untitled (Imaginary Garden), 1976, Ball-point pen on paper, 14 1/2" x 20 3/4"

Solea, c. 1978, 15" x 50"

In the Garden, 1979, 24" x 30"

Tree trunk, c. 1979, 12 1/2" x 76"

Pebble path, c. 1979, 12 /2 x 83

Roots, c. 1980, 20 3/4" x 28 3/4"

Untitled (Crumpled paper), c. 1980, 15 7/8" x 29 3/4"

Star-Grass, c. 1980, 20 3/4" x 28 7/16"

Artis Natura Magistra, 1980, 23" x 33"

End of the Beginning, 1980, 23" x 33"

Inside, 1980, 23 x 33

A Matter of Time, 1981, 23" x 33"

Key Plant, 1982, 19" x 20 1/2"

Artis Natura Magistra 2, 1982, 46 1/2" x 34"

From Scratch, 1982, 13 3/8" x 22 3/8"

Mound, 1982, 23 x 33

Many Alone, 1982, 20 11/16" x 28 1/2"

For Kukai, 1982, 23" x 33"

Mandala, 1982, 23" x 33"

Marina, 1982, 23" x 33"

Spiral Shells, c. 1982, 22" x 30 l/2"

Fu-Ching, 1982, 23 x 33

Collection, 1982, 23" x 33"

Nest, 1987, 22 /2 x 26 /2

Maze, 1987, 22 x 30 /2

Adam's House, 1987-8, 27 1/2" x 20"




Solea, c. 1978, 15" x 50"