Tags for: Fairy Tales and Fables: Illustration and Storytelling in Art
  • Special Exhibition

Fairy Tales and Fables: Illustration and Storytelling in Art

Saturday, May 4–Sunday, September 8, 2024
Location:  101A–B Prints and Drawings
James and Hannah Bartlett Gallery
Free; no ticket required

About The Exhibition

Industrialization transformed all aspects of book production in the 19th century, from the manufacture of paper and ink to the printing and distribution of finished volumes. The process of illustrating books was no exception. Propelled by the demands of new urban markets, including London, Paris, and New York, printing techniques such as lithography, wood engraving, and photomechanical processes were developed and popularized, allowing printers to reproduce artists’ designs faster and more accurately than ever before. As a result, illustration proliferated, filling the pages of books, magazines, and periodicals consumed around the world. This illustration boom served as an employment and training opportunity for new artists, from William Blake in the late 18th century to Arthur Rackham and Kate Greenaway decades later. It was also used by established artists, such as Edouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall, to reach wider audiences. 

This exhibition features more than 50 rarely seen artworks related to book illustration from the museum’s holdings and local collections. Included are preparatory sketches, finished drawings and watercolors, printing blocks, limited edition prints, and published books created between 1750 and 1950. These objects show how artists from Jean-Baptiste Oudry to Aubrey Beardsley approached the challenges and opportunities of illustration, navigating the commercial needs of the publishing industry while developing their artistic voices. 

Using both traditional and innovative techniques, these illustrators engaged with and questioned the established imagery related to stories as they addressed new audiences, from sophisticated collectors interested in the latest artistic movements to middle-class parents trying to entice their children to read. The groundbreaking works in the exhibition, some still recognizable and beloved today—influenced generations of artists and readers to come.

A free printed family guide is available in the exhibition.


This exhibition is made possible with support from the Simon Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland.

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, the John and Jeanette Walton Exhibition Fund, and Margaret and Loyal Wilson. Generous annual support is provided by two anonymous supporters, Gini and Randy Barbato, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Frankino-Dodero Family Fund for Exhibitions Endowment, Florence Kahane Goodman, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Marta Jack and the late Donald M. Jack Jr., Carl T. Jagatich, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, the Roy Minoff Family Fund, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Jeffrey Mostade and Eric Nilson and Varun Shetty, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Michael and Cindy Resch, William Roj and Mary Lynn Durham, Betty T. and David M. Schneider, Paula and Eugene Stevens, the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Claudia Woods and David Osage.