Fairy tales with cultural slants at BRM

Just about everyone knows the stories of “Cinderella” and the “Three Little Pigs,” but are the stories exactly the same in all parts of the world? The short answer is “no” and a new exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum of Art drives that point home.

A Steven Guarnaccia illustration. “Finally, the wolf arrives at the house of the third little pig.”

Cinderella & Co. — Three Fairy Tales Reimagined takes the audience on an international journey showing how the same stories are depicted in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean, as well as in the United States and Europe, and showing how things differ today from the original depictions.

Guest curator H. Nichols B. Clark, founding director and chief curator of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art emeritus, said the idea is to show the various ways the same story can be told.

The artwork on display is from the various illustrations taken directly from the books within a given culture. The morals of the stories remain the same but reflect cultural variations. There are more than 100 drawings from 35 different illustrators.

In addition to “Cinderella” and “The Three Little Pigs,” there are illustrations from different treatments of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Imagine the big bad wolf from the Three Little Pigs driving past the pigs’ home, shown as Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water.” That’s what illustrator Steve Guarnaccia did. In addition, he illustrated the three little pigs using noted architects Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, and Wright.

Of that and other fairy tale books Guarnaccia illustrated, Clark added: “It’s a wonderfully subversive way to introduce children to major examples of art.”

Other illustrators with works in the exhibit include Brian Pinkney who portrays Cinderella as Cendrillon from the Caribbean, for the Illustration for Cendrillon, A Caribbean Cinderella by Robert D. San Souci (Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998)

The same stories are also told from a variety of perspectives, including a contemporary feminist approach. “Cinderella Liberator” by Rebecca Solnit, interprets the story differently, Clark said.

“Cinders and the prince don’t get married and live happily ever after. They follow their respective stars. Cinderella wanted to run a bakery, the prince really wanted to be a farmer and the stepsisters wanted to be seamstresses. They all pursued their professional aims,” he said.

Peter Paone (b. 1936), Halloween Party, 2015, acrylic on panel, 46 x 34 in. Collection of Dr. Matthew Killion

Clark referred to Solnit’s work as “a wonderful coda to the exhibit.”

Cinderella & Co. — Three Fairy Tales Reimagined runs through Jan. 5.

Also on display at the Brandywine River Museum of Art, now through Nov. 3, is Reality Reassembled: The Halloween Paintings of Peter Paone.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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