Why Dr. Seuss Liked Drawing Dirty Pictures

By Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram and the Sun - Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In 1960, editors at Random House told The New Yorker that the demographic for the works of Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, was children aged 5 to 9 years old. Books like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat have become perennial sellers, with the writer-illustrator as closely identified with childhood entertainment as Mister Rogers.

But Dr. Seuss had a mischievous side, one that was in sharp contrast to the kid-friendly material that kept him at the top of the bestseller lists for decades. Largely unseen by the public, it was directed at his editorial supervisors at Random House. When Geisel submitted the manuscript for Dr. Seuss’s ABC, an alphabet primer published in 1963, editor Michael Firth was surprised to see the letter “X” accompanied by a naked woman with the following copy:

“Big X, little x. X, X, X. / Someday, kiddies, you will learn about SEX.”

Geisel knew the page would never see the light of day: His habit of including lurid material stemmed from wanting to make sure his editors were paying attention to his work. (He may also have been trying to avoid the monotony that comes with all-ages prose.) Speaking of his work process, Geisel once said that his first drafts were full of “swear words and dirty words and everything else … then I go back and clean it up, have a little fun with it.”

The book cover for 'The Seven Lady Godivas' by Dr. Seuss
Random House

Whether there was ever an X-rated draft of Green Eggs and Ham has apparently been lost to history. The only mature-audience title Geisel published was 1939's The Seven Lady Godivas, which was created with an ambition to “draw the sexiest women I could.” (The nudist Godivas appear naked throughout the book.) It sold poorly, however, moving just 2500 copies during its initial release. For Seuss fans, it was better for both the author and his brand that he keep his more salacious urges to himself.

Lost Sketches From The Little Prince Have Been Discovered in Switzerland

Oleksandr Samolyk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Oleksandr Samolyk, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

French aviator and author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, published in 1943, has long been regarded as one of the most compelling books of the 20th century. Drawing upon Saint-Exupéry's own experiences in aviation, the book tells the tale of a pilot who crashes in the Sahara and befriends a little boy who claims to have come from outer space. The book is accompanied by a number of illustrations by Saint-Exupéry. Now, Smithsonian reports that some of the original preparatory sketches have surfaced.

According to France24.com, the sketches—of the titular Little Prince chatting with a fox, a boa constrictor devouring an elephant, and a character called the Tippler—were purchased at auction in 1986 by an art collector named Bruno Stefanini, who tucked them away in a folder. When Stefanini passed away in December 2018, the artwork—drawn on airmail paper—was uncovered by workers at his non-profit Foundation for Art, Culture, and History in Winterthur, Switzerland.

Aviator and 'The Little Prince' author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is photographed inside of an airplane cockpit in 1935
Aviator and The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1935.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The organization intends to share its findings with the Morgan Library and Museum in New York, which currently houses the original book manuscript (including drafts of the book's most famous phrase, "What is essential is invisible to the eye") and 35 other sketches.

The Stefanini collection also includes a particularly personal piece of material. One of the sketches includes a love letter made out to Saint-Exupéry's wife while the pilot was in New York in 1942 following Germany’s invasion of France. It was there he wrote The Little Prince, which was published the following year. In 1944, Saint-Exupéry was shot down by a German pilot over the Mediterranean.

[h/t Smithsonian]

The Definition of Museum Could Be Changing

The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, France.
roman_slavik/iStock via Getty Images

If you’ve always casually defined museum as “a place to see art or historical objects,” you’re not necessarily wrong. But the International Council of Museums (ICOM) has a more specific, official guideline that defines a museum as “a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates, and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study, and enjoyment.”

ICOM’s 40,000 members have been adhering to this definition for almost 50 years to represent more than 20,000 museums around the world. Now, The Art Newspaper reports, some members want to change it.

On July 22, the organization’s executive board convened in Paris and composed a new definition that Danish curator Jette Sandahl believes better suits the demands of “cultural democracy.” By this updated description, a museum must “acknowledg[e] and addres[s] the conflicts and challenges of the present,” “work in active partnership with and for diverse communities to collect, preserve, research, interpret, exhibit, and enhance understandings of the world,” and “contribute to human dignity and social justice, global equality, and planetary wellbeing.”

The proposal immediately elicited harsh reactions from a number of other members of the museum community, who felt the text was too ideological and vague. François Mairesse, a professor at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and the chair of the International Committee of Museology, even resigned from the revisory commission—led by Sandahl—earlier this summer when he realized the new definition wasn’t, by his standards, really a definition. “This is not a definition but a statement of fashionable values, much too complicated and partly aberrant,” he told The Art Newspaper. “It would be disastrous to impose only one type of museum.”

The current plan is for ICOM members to vote on the definition at the general assembly on September 7 in Kyoto, Japan, but 24 national branches and five museums’ international committees have petitioned to postpone the vote—they’d like some time to create their own definition for museum and present it as a counter-proposal.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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