THE IRREPRESSIBLE ELOISE, PICTURE BOOK STAR
AND QUINTESSENTIAL NEW YORKER,
RETURNS TO THE LIMELIGHT THIS SUMMER
AT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Eloise at the Museum
On view June 30 – October 9, 2017

NEW YORK, NY (May 19, 2017) – This summer, the New-York Historical Society celebrates the feisty charm and audacious spirit of Eloise, who continues to be a picture book superstar more than 60 years after her debut. On view June 30 – October 9, 2017, Eloise at the Museum reveals the creative collaboration between cabaret star Kay Thompson (1909–1998) and the young illustrator Hilary Knight (b. 1926) that brought the precocious character to life. The exhibition showcases more than 75 objects, ranging from original manuscript pages to sketchbooks, portraits, photographs, and vintage dolls. Organized by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, where it debuted earlier this year, New-York Historical’s presentation fully immerses visitors into Eloise’s world with evocations of the grand lobby of the Plaza Hotel, her bedroom―complete with a storytelling corner―and her bubbly “bawthroom,” where she often made mischief.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Eloise with this special exhibition, as she is a true New York character through and through,” said Dr. Louise Mirrer, president and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Whether she is exploring the nooks and crannies of the iconic Plaza Hotel or adventuring across the globe, Eloise’s indomitable spirit is an inspiration to New Yorkers young and old, and the story of her creation and her lasting impact on pop culture are equally fascinating.”

“I am delighted to have so many pieces of rarely seen art in this exhibition,” said Hilary Knight, who turned 90 this past November. “Kay Thompson and I were both born under the sign of Scorpio, which I translate to mean people who work, imagine, create, and fantasize. Eloise, a Scorpio herself, would say the same.”

Exhibition Highlights
Curated at The Carle by Jane Bayard Curley, the exhibition at New-York Historical is overseen by Assistant Curator of Material Culture Rebecca Klassen and includes rarely seen artworks from Hilary Knight’s archive, such as his 1954 trial drawings for the first Eloise book, an Eloise in Paris sketchbook featuring Eloise’s visit to the atelier of Christian Dior, and a magnificent suite of final art from Eloise in Moscow.

Select works on view show the evolution of beloved figures like Eloise’s dog Weenie, whose appearance changed dramatically from an early 1955 sketch by Knight titled “I Have a Dog Who Looks Like a Cat.” Weenie was redesigned to more closely resemble Thompson’s favorite dog breed, the pug, but the essence of Knight’s vision remains from the sketch to the final iteration: Eloise and Weenie wearing matching sunglasses. An unpublished color drawing of the Plaza Hotel lobby captures its grand chandelier, marble pillars, and glamorous “ladies who lunch,” as well as Eloise slumped in a chair.

Eloise’s exuberance is on display in unpublished 1957 illustrations from Eloise in Paris, as she rides into town like a conquering hero atop a luggage-laden car, learning French by singing out “Fromage is cheese ‘n fish is pois-son ‘n boats is les bat-eaux!” Also on view are Knight’s final illustrations from Eloise in Moscow, published in 1959 at the height of the Cold War, featuring scenes of Eloise dancing with pigeons and on the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre.

A star of the exhibition is Mr. Knight’s original Eloise portrait from 1956. It hung, majestically, for four years at the Plaza where Kay Thompson lived. Then it vanished—at its time, a headline event—until 1962, when Mr. Knight was alerted by an anonymous phone call that it had been sighted, frameless and damaged...in a dumpster. Stored away for over 55 years in Mr. Knight’s closet, it has been revived, refreshed, and restored by a team that includes Lansing Moore and his expert staff, in consultation with the original artist, Hilary Knight. It now returns to public view for the first time in decades.

Eloise at the Museum also charts the careers of her two creators, from Thompson’s rise in the entertainment industry to Knight’s early artistic influences and later works. In addition, the exhibition looks at Eloise’s life outside of the books, featuring related merchandise created throughout the years, including dolls and doll outfits; a line of girl’s clothes; a 1957-58 children’s menu from the Plaza Hotel, where Eloise-themed tea-times continue today; and an Eloise Emergency Hotel Kit, complete with bubble gum, a red crayon, and turtle food, in honor of her pet turtle Skipperdee.

A kid-friendly audio guide narrated by illustrator and Eloise admirer Joana Avillez and hotel house phones that can be picked up to hear actress Bernadette Peters read excerpts from the books round out the visitor experience.

Another exhibition about the artist, Hilary Knight’s Stage Stuck World, is on view at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center until September 1.

Programming
A host of family activities bring the Plaza’s most famous resident to life, inviting young visitors to explore the exhibition in creative ways.  Eloise Storytime on Tuesdays–Fridays at 2 pm welcomes young fans to hear all about the character’s exploits at the Plaza and on her travels. Eloise’s Rawther Fancy Party―family weekends taking place July 8 and 9 and September 30 and October 1―features storytelling, artmaking, and mischief making (the good kind), along with a special book signing featuring Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight.

Eloise fans of all ages can experience Eloise at the Museum with a special apres dejeuner on select Wednesday filled with fawncy treats and delicious drinks. Families will start the afternoon in the New-York Historical Society’s stunning restaurant, Storico, with a menu of savory and sweet treats, and then continue the fun in the special exhibition Eloise at the Museum with a special read aloud story time. A limited number of tickets are available to purchase at nyhistory.org; $45 per person (Members $40).

Exhibition Credits
Support for Eloise at the Museum is provided by Triad Foundation, the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc, and Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history. 

About the New-York Historical Society
The New-York Historical Society, one of America’s preeminent cultural institutions, is dedicated to fostering research and presenting history and art exhibitions and public programs that reveal the dynamism of history and its influence on the world of today. Founded in 1804, New-York Historical has a mission to explore the richly layered history of New York City and State and the country, and to serve as a national forum for the discussion of issues surrounding the making and meaning of history.

Press Contacts
Ines Aslan, New-York Historical Society                                  Julia Esposito, Polskin Arts
212.485.9264 / Ines.aslan@nyhistory.org                              212.715.1643 / Julia.esposito@finnpartners.com

Image Credit: Hilary Knight (b. 1926). Illustration for the Plaza Hotel children’s menu, 1957-8. Paper. Collection of Hilary Knight. Copyright © by Kay Thompson

 

Date: 
Friday, May 19, 2017
Creative: Tronvig Group