Weekend Heller: The Elements of Kalman, Maira

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I am always happy when one of my favorite artists, Maira Kalman, is recognized for her exceptional achievements. This week The Jewish Museum and The New York Public Library announced a major acquisition of Kalman’s “The Elements of Style,” comprised of 57 gouaches on paper created for the 2005 edition of William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White’s 1918 and 1959 “The Elements of Style”.

Maira Kalman, She found only two mistakes, 2004

For the Kalman version of this legendary book she paired her irreverent illustrations with the book’s famous grammatical rules. Known to generations of aspiring writers and English students, Kalman discovered the book at a used bookstore around 2002. She found it so amusing and subject to visual interpretation that it became her most beloved project to date.

“Maira Kalman’s whimsical interpretation of The Elements of Style breathed new life into an important book, making it increasingly attainable while capturing the playful spirit of the original authors,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. “We are so proud to partner with The Jewish Museum to acquire the 50-plus paintings from this significant contemporary work, which exemplifies the very nature of what happens in our research libraries every day: primary sources being used to create new works. We look forward to seeing how researchers utilize the Kalman pieces, perhaps to make their own interpretations.”


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →