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Soul, Sound, and Voice: The Art of Jerry Pinkney


About the Exhibition

Woodmere is delighted to present the groundbreaking exhibition, Soul, Sound, and Voice: The Art of Jerry Pinkney, showcasing master watercolorist and internationally renowned illustrator, Jerry Pinkney (1939-2021) whose 100+ books have inspired millions globally. The exhibition will include approximately 75 of Pinkney’s watercolors and illustrations, showcasing the profound influence of music on his life and work. His work is centered on finding voice and building agency, particularly for young people, and highlights the vital role that sound, song, and music play in this pursuit.

Pinkney interpreted American history and identity through his experiences as an African American born and raised in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. It was in Germantown, with its rich cultural history, that he realized the roles of art and music in shaping a person’s understanding of society and place. He is not only celebrated as one of America’s greatest watercolorists but also as a preeminent illustrator who transformed children’s literature by making it inclusive of Black histories. His optimistic view was that through art and music, we can find common ground and heal the wounds of our shared past.

The exhibition will focus on three thematic sections:

A Chorus of Voices: Honoring Black History - This section features Pinkney’s picture books on African American traditions, historical events, and cultural contributions related to music. Highlights include The Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girls Swing Band, A Place To Land: The Speech That Inspired A Nation, and I Want To Be. Pinkney’s illustrations for God Bless the Child vividly describe the Great Migration: “People packed up spirituals and folksongs like valued possessions and carried them along as nourishment for their souls.”

Ballads: Folk Tales and Fables Reimagined - This section showcases Pinkney’s dedication to retelling and re-righting popular stories of the past. On view are his re-envisioning of John Henry, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Aesop's fable The Grasshopper and the Ants, and Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytales The Little Mermaid and The Nightingale, which Pinkney paints with strong Black protagonists and in distinctly African locales.

The Music Makers: Classical, Jazz, Gospel, R&B, Soul, and Rock ‘n Roll - This section showcases Pinkney’s graphic design commissions portraying music legends from Benny Golson and Ma Rainey to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder, as well as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Toscanini, Mahler, and Gershwin. Highlights include a 1977 Seagram’s calendar celebrating the Black roots of jazz and swing. Pinkney’s luminescent watercolors give visual voice to Black spirituals, gospels, and illustrations for Music From Our Lord’s Holy Heaven and David’s Songs.


This exhibition is being organized by Woodmere Art Museum and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, both of which own artwork by Jerry Pinkney. A Teacher Resource of curriculum materials, associated with the exhibition, is being developed by a team of highly regarded educators. These materials will correlate with the primary National Standards for teaching music, art, and social studies in K-12 education and will be available nationwide through both museums’ websites.

After its showing at Woodmere, the exhibition will travel to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts in June 2026. The exhibition will also travel to the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh.


Support for this exhibition is provided by:

Debbie Brodsky on behalf of the Julian A. and Lois G. Brodsky Foundation

National Endowment for Arts (NEA)

Terra Foundation for American Art