‘Frog and Toad’ author artwork on view in exhibition

Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY presents Frog and Toad & Other Friends: The World of Arnold Lobel, a new exhibition opened September 23 on view through December 31, 2023. 

The exhibition celebrates the art of Arnold Lobel (1933–1987), author and illustrator of some of the most beloved children’s books produced since the late 1960s. Included among these are his Frog and Toad series (1971–79), Mouse Soup (1977), and Fables (1980), which was awarded the prestigious Caldecott Medal. Creating a magical world animated by a talking frog, a toad, an owl, mice, kangaroos, and other colorful creatures, Lobel subtly reflects upon human foibles in his charmingly rendered stories and illustrations.

Visitors will discover over one hundred original illustrations and works on paper highlighting Lobel’s detailed illustration technique and warm, funny tales of love and friendship, mostly among animal friends. 

Lobel’s daughter Adrianne, who has her own exhibition running concurrently, helped personalize Frog and Toad & Other Friends by adding her own perspective as a daughter—as well as an artist. 

“I have helped put the exhibition together with the hope that people will see and appreciate his versatility as an artist,” Adrianne Lobel said. “He loved his work—he never really wanted to do anything else. I think he would be pleasantly surprised to know that thirty-five years after his death, the work is still going strong, and generations of adults all over the world have grown up on it and now share it with their children and grandchildren.”

Adrianne Lobel’s exhibition, Nature Composed: Paintings and Tapestries by Adrianne Lobel, opens the same day at Fenimore Art Museum. She will also be involved with Frog and Toad related programming.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Lobel Storytime and Crafting

Saturdays (September 30; October 7, 14, 21, 28) • 11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

Included with museum admission. Ages 19 and under are free.

Enjoy a storytime and crafting program for children and their families. Hear stories and take part in crafting projects that complement the exhibition Frog and Toad & Other Friends: The World of Arnold Lobel.

About Arnold Lobel

Raised in Schenectady, New York, Arnold Lobel was an awkward and sensitive child, often bullied at school. Throughout his self-described unhappy childhood, he sought refuge in his local library. For Lobel, picture books were “capable of suggesting everything that is good about feeling well and having positive thoughts about being alive.” His passion for books spawned a talent for storytelling and drawing, and he soon won the respect of his classmates by enthralling them with the stories he invented.

Lobel graduated from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York in 1955 with a degree in fine arts. He married Anita Kempler, another art student at Pratt, that same year. They settled in Brooklyn across from the Prospect Park Zoo, where they went often with their children, inspiring one of his earliest books, A Zoo for Mister Muster (1962).

It was in 1970, when an editor convinced Lobel to create an early reader (a new genre of books ushered in by Dr. Seuss and designed to motivate emerging readers), that he achieved real success.

Guided by the belief that the secret to creating great books for children is in writing for oneself about oneself, Lobel drew on fond memories of summers spent in Vermont where his family adopted myriad frogs and toads as pets. His strong affection for these amphibians resulted in the development of his most memorable characters, Frog and Toad.

Frog and Toad was just the beginning of a long list of early readers Lobel wrote and illustrated including Mouse Tales (1972), Mouse Soup (1977), and Uncle Elephant (1981). Lobel also illustrated stories by other authors; in his twenty-six year career, Lobel illustrated nearly one hundred titles and wrote the stories of many of them as well. His beautifully crafted books received numerous awards, including a Caldecott Medal, two Caldecott Honors, and a Newbery Honor.

Lobel varied his media, method, and mood with each new book. From the crisp precision of his Rembrandt-like pen-and-ink drawings for The Microscope (1984) to the smoky, smudgy, foggily atmospheric scene of London Bridge in Whiskers & Rhymes (1985), Lobel deftly demonstrated his wide-ranging repertory of styles and techniques. He sought inspiration in unexpected sources, turning, for example, to Chinese landscapes in his gentle parable Ming Lo Moves the Mountain (1982).

About Fenimore Art Museum

Fenimore Art Museum, located on the shores of Otsego Lake—James Fenimore Cooper’s “Glimmerglass”—in historic Cooperstown, New York, features a wide-ranging collection of American art including folk art; important American 18th- and 19th-century landscape, genre, and portrait paintings; more than 125,000 historic photographs representing the technical developments made in photography and providing extensive visual documentation of the region’s unique history; and the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art comprised of nearly 900 art objects representative of a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions.

Museum Hours

Open daily 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. through October 9. Fall/Winter hours (October 10–December 31): 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas). Museum admission is free for visitors 19 and under.

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