Freedom's Journal: The Art of Jerry Pinkney


About the Exhibition

Master watercolorist and renowned illustrator, Jerry Pinkney (American, 1939-2021) is celebrated worldwide. The exhibition focuses on the subject of civil rights and the pursuit of freedom and includes over 100 of the artist’s illustrations. A robust schedule of lectures and events, many of them with participation by the artist himself, will take place through the run of the exhibition.

On view are Pinkney’s watercolors for a book he considers to be among his most important accomplishments, The Old African (2005). A collaboration with author Julius Lester, The Old African is inspired by the 1803 revolt of Igbo captives aboard a slave trade vessel off the coast of Georgia. Words and images communicate the strength and courage of the human spirit while conveying the terrible historic facts and brutality of slavery.

The installation also includes Pinkney’s illustrations for Charles L. Blockson’s groundbreaking article, “Escape from Slavery: The Underground Railroad,” which appeared in the July 1984 issue of National Geographic. The article is credited with transforming popular perceptions of the cooperative system that helped those fleeing slavery to reach the North and Canada.

Pinkney’s illustrations for Minty: The Story of the Young Harriet Tubman (1996), about the heroine of the Underground Railroad, are shown alongside those for I Want to Be (1993), the story of a young girl’s dreams of unbounded opportunity.

Pinkney has received several commissions by the National Park Service. The exhibition includes his imagined portraits of the men and women memorialized in the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York, as well as portraits of people who participated in the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama along what is now called the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.

Watercolors for other books such as John Henry (1994), David’s Songs (1992), Tonweya and the Eagles and Other Lakota Indian Tales (1979), and Journeys with Elijah: Eight Tales of the Prophet (1999) illuminate the range of Pinkney’s astonishing career.

The exhibition’s title, Freedom’s Journal, is inspired by one of Pinkney’s illustrations for Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs (1993) that are also on view. The first African-American owned and operated newspaper published in the United States, Freedom’s Journal was founded in 1827 and its logo appears in one of Pinkney’s illustrations.

Pinkney was born and raised in the Germantown section of Philadelphia and studied at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now the University of the Arts). He has illustrated more than one hundred books and received many awards, among them the Caldecott Medal, five Caldecott Honor Medals, five Coretta Scott King Awards. He has been honored by the Society of Illustrators with a Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 2012, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

For their generous support of this exhibition and its programming, Woodmere thanks the William M. King Charitable Foundation, the Lomax Family Foundation, Debbie Brodsky, Timoney Knox LLP, and the Drumcliff Foundation.

The exhibition was accompanied by an illustrated digital catalogue, and has been featured in Woodmere's podcast, Diving Board. To subscribe and listen, click here.

Exhibition-Related Events

02.23.19 | Members' Tour | 1 pm
03.02.19 | PHILADANCO D/2 Apprentice Company Dance Performance
6 pm
03.09.19 | Open House Reception | Noon-4pm


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