OZ ARTWORK COMES TO ESMOA
Summer of 2019 saw the largest gathering of original artwork created for the Oz book series in well over a decade. The occasion was “Experience 41: Oz,” an immersive gallery experience hosted by the El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA) in Los Angeles, celebrating L Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and its phenomenal pop culture impact.
Boasting over 80 original artworks and artifacts from the novel and its inspired stories, ESMOA curated an impressive event that included illustrations by each of the artists who contributed to the original “Famous Forty” series. Highlights included pen and ink drawings by W.W. Denslow for THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, and works by John R. Neill for each of the Baum titles for which original artwork is known to survive (THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, OZMA OF OZ, THE ROAD TO OZ, THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ, TIK TOK OF OZ and GLINDA OF OZ) as well as preliminary sketches for several Ruth Plumly Thompson titles, including HANDY MANDY IN OZ and THE PURPLE PRINCE OF OZ. Illustrations for the Oz books by later artists, Frank Kramer, ‘Dirk,’ and Dick Martin were also represented.
On August 22, 2019, The Lost Art of Oz Project was invited to host a tour of the exhibit. Brady Schwind (joined by expert guests, Jane Albright, the President of the International Wizard of Oz Club, and prominent Oz collector, Freddy Fogarty) regaled a sold out audience with stories behind the pieces on display and from his search to track down the surviving original artwork from the series. The exhibit proved a sensational opportunity for exchange between Oz fans, old and new, and a viable platform to educate on the impact the classic American Fairy Tale continues to have as it approaches the 120 year anniversary of its first publication.
Museum curators, Barbara Boehm and Eugenia Torres, along with the entire staff at ESMoA, are to be commended for their efforts. The runaway success of the exhibit will hopefully inspire other museums and institutions to take on the merits of Oz and the enduring impact of its illustrative designs.