Louis Slobodkin (1903-1975) was an artist and illustrator and writer of books for children. He won the Caldecott Medal in 1943 for
Many Moons. The collection contains artwork, manuscripts, correspondence, publicity, photographs, and memorabilia.
Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries
Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Louis Slobodkin, sculptor, illustrator, and author, was born in Albany, New York on February 19, 1903, son of Nathan and Dora (nee Lubin) Slobodkin. He attended the Beaux Arts Institute of Design in New York City from 1918 to 1923. Slobodkin married Florence Gersh on September 27, 1927, and they raised two sons, Lawrence and Michael.
Louis Slobodkin was a noted sculptor. He won twenty-two medals from the Beaux Arts Institute of Design during the period 1918 to 1922, a Louis Tiffany Foundation Fellowship in 1932, Honorable Mention in competition for the Chicago War Memorial, 1932, and various commissions in federal competitions. He frequently served on art juries throughout the 1940s and 1950s.
Slobodkin first achieved fame in 1938 when his "Young Lincoln" statue, which had won a place in the Federal Building at the 1940 World's Fair, was summarily removed and destroyed by an official of the Fair. Slobodkin's many friends in the art world rallied to his cause, and eventually a bronze version of the plaster original was permanently placed in the Headquarters Building of the Department of the Interior in Washington, D. C.
In 1941, his sketching drew the attention of a friend, Eleanor Estes, who asked him to illustrate her book,
The Moffats (Harcourt Brace, 1941). The book was well received, and a new career for Slobodkin was launched. In 1943, he illustrated James Thurber's
Many Moons (Harcourt Brace, 1943), and this book won the Caldecott Medal. Between 1941 and 1972 Slobodkin illustrated, or collaborated on, or wrote and illustrated at least eighty-two titles. Notable among these are the
Moffat books with Eleanor Estes,
Many Moons with Thurber, and his own
Magic Michael (MacMillan, 1944),
Fo'castle Waltz (Vanguard, 1945),
Sculpture: Principles and Practice (World, 1949),
The Space Ship Under the Apple Tree (MacMillan, 1952),
One Is Good but Two Are Better (Vanguard, 1956),
Yasu and the Strangers (MacMillan, 1965), and the
Read-About series (Frankin Watts 1966, 1967). Two of these books are for adult readers--
Fo'castle Waltz and
Sculpture: Principles and Practice--while the rest are for children.
Louis Slobodkin's books have been translated into many foreign languages, including French, Norwegian, German, Italian, and Japanese. They have shown considerable staying power, some remaining in print for over thirty years, and often excerpted for anthologies and curriculum materials.
As Slobodkin's reputation as an author and illustrator grew, he came to be much in demand as a speaker at library association conventions and book fairs. His "chalk talks", given to large audiences of children, were always well received. Slobodkin's gently humorous books generated a steady stream of fan mail, which he carefully answered, addressing the children as equals and encouraging them to place their creativity on a foundation of hard work, as he himself had done.
Louis Slobodkin died in 1975.
The focus of the Louis Slobodkin Papers is his work as an author and illustrator of books, primarily children's books. The collection consists of manuscripts, artwork, incoming and outgoing letters, publicity and memorabilia. Manuscripts typically begin with a pencil holograph draft in an unruled spiral-bound or composition notebook. Early studies or page layouts are also found in these, sometimes standing alone. Usually there is no title, date or author's signature in these.
From the notebooks, Louis Slobodkin dictated to Florence Slobodkin as she sat at the typewriter. This produced a draft which he could go over with his pencil, making deletions, corrections and revisions. Then Florence Slobodkin would retype, and after the new draft was proofed, it was sent to the editor, usually at Macmillan or Vanguard, who often sent it back for still more revision. (The best example in the collection is
The Seaweed Hat, for which we have at least twelve versions.)
Louis Slobodkin would then go back to his initial sketches and rough layouts, design the book in his head, and mark the typescript with page breaks to match up the illustrations with the text. Then, he would work up his final drawings, including those for the book cover and jacket. Much of this work is in ink and watercolor, some in ink and pastel. There are a number of books by other authors for which he did ink line drawings only, such as
The Moffats by Eleanor Estes, but he much preferred to work in full color, trying to achieve maximum impact from very bright primary colors (see
Clear the Tracks,
The Cowboy Twins, and
Jonathan and the Rainbow). It is interesting to note the deterioration in delicate details, so important to his gently humorous style, in the transition from the key drawing to the finished book. Louis Slobodkin was often at odds with the printers over this, not only because he wanted to preserve the integrity of his artistic conceptions, but because he believed children were conscious of quality in books, and chose accordingly. This point is documented in the series of publishers' letters and in several speeches and radio scripts, all of which are part of the collection.
Use of the Collection
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open to the public.
Collection must be used in Special Collections & University Archives Reading Room.
Restrictions on Use :
Property rights reside with Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections & University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.
Archival material may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws and other regulations.
Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications (e.g. a cause of action for invasion of privacy may arise if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person) for which the University of Oregon assumes no responsibility.
If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.
Preferred Citation :
[Identification of item], Louis Slobodkin papers, Ax 733, Special Collections & University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries, Eugene, Oregon.
Collection is organized into the following series:
Acquisition Information :
Gift of Louis Slobodkin in 1972.
Processing Note :
Collection processed by Richard S. Bear, Manuscripts Processor.
This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.