A Horse for a Tour Guide

Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), is arguably the most prolific and popular children’s book author and illustrator. He is a household name, with many of us growing up with a love and fascination for his imaginative worlds and creative characters. Geisel had a way of creating books that sparked a passion for reading and creativity for kids and adults alike, even after his death in 1991. For years, previously unpublished manuscripts drafted and sketched by Geisel were complied and published posthumously including, DaisyHead Mayzie (1995) and What Pet Should I Get (2015). Each new published book was followed by excitement and rave reviews, illustrating the deep multi-generational connection we have with Dr. Seuss.

Twenty-eight years after Geisel’s death, the connection is still strong with the publication of Dr. Seuss’s The Horse Museum (2019) released on the 3rd of September. The book immediately hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. Copies flew off the shelves and many shops are on back order for the title. The eighty-page book follows an energetic equine tour guide through an art museum dedicated to horses and teaches the reader about the different ways of making and thinking about art.

It is purely by chance we have a new addition to the Dr. Seuss family of books. Audrey Geisel, wife of Ted Geisel, found an overlooked box of manuscripts in their former California home back in 2012. The box of unrhymed text and sketches, believed to be from the 1950s, was a remarkable discovery and plans to finish the illustrations and publish the book began.

The idea of a Horse Museum, led by a bow tie wearing horse guide, is perfect for NSLM. We have a strong and ever-growing collection in art and books of equines and (obviously) we are museum and library. Our topic can be so niche that it is often hard to find children’s books for our institution, so we pre-ordered two books and impatiently waited for September 3rd to arrive.

The books came and we were speechless! It seemed as though Geisel made this book just for NSLM (or that is what we like to believe).  

Valerie Peacock, Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator and Michelle Guzman, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian, reading Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum.

As we devoured the pages of The Horse Museum, we began to realize how perfectly this new Dr. Seuss book fit within our institution. It depicted several images related to our collection, it talked about art in the terms we use for our school tours, and it even included art in library books (told you – made just for us).

The book opens up by asking “What is Art All About?”, something we like to ask our students on tours. The fantastic thing about it is how Geisel uses the horse tour guide to take you through all types of art depicting equines, from cave paintings to modern art and showcases color, speed, and movement.

Several paintings, sculptures, and ways of storytelling through art jumped out at us as relating to our collection.

The “beautiful lines” that the artist Katsushika Hokausai saw in horses are similar to the beautiful lines that we will see in the upcoming exhibition Nakayama’s Horses: The Art of Tadashi Nakayama, opening July 17, 2020 at NSLM. 

You can see similarities in how some artists see color, like Mane-Katz’s painting of horse racing and The Start  by Daphne vom Baur on view in our Recent Acquisitions Hall. The varied uses of color and how it can be used to illustrate mood, movement, and context are my favorite to talk about on tours with school groups.

Some artists see speed, especially those in our collection with many depictions of racing. Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, can be seen in the book while our collection holds Muybridge’s Horse and Rider! Can you spot the differences? The speed and power of horses is found in many of our collection pieces.

There was even a 500-year-old image of polo being played in Persia! While NSLM has more contemporary depictions of the sport, seeing the similarities and differences of the sport across time is fascinating.

The book then moves into modern art and the way contemporary artists view and depict horses, including the wire sculpture by Alexander Calder. If you have visited the museum lately you will have noticed a similar medium in contemporary artist Joan Danziger’s sculptures of wire and glass in current exhibition Canter & Crawl: The Glass Sculpture of Joan Danziger. Like Calder’s sculpture, you would not want to sit on Danziger’s sculptures. (Ouch!)

Lastly, Dr. Seuss reminds the reader that art can be found outside of a museum. Just look at books in a library! Books can be adorned with beautiful covers like James Baldwin’s Fifty Famous Rides and Riders. Many books are filled with beautiful illustrations, like the Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum and C.W.Anderson’s The Blind Connemara. Even anatomy books can be considered art – just look at the skeletal drawing of a horse in a 1683 anatomy book.

All in all, Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum perfectly encapsulates the things we love about our museum and library collections.

Want to read it? Come by the Library, get cozy in a reading nook and read on. Afterwards, stop by the Museum and see if you can find lines, color, speed, and familiar artworks.

Don’t forget to save the date for our Dr. Seuss Day Celebration on March 1, 2020 at NSLM. For more information on our celebration click here. 

And, while we have not trained a horse to wear bow-ties and give tours (yet!), we do have free weekly tours on Wednesdays at 2PM conducted by our fantastic human staff. We hope to see you there!

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