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Norman Rockwell Museum Presents “Dancing Princesses: The Picture Book Art of Ruth Sanderson”

Via the Norman Rockwell Museum:

Exhibition To Showcase Over 60 Original Illustration 
From The Award-Winning Fantasy Artist and Children’s Book Illustrator

Stockbridge, MA, November 14, 2013— Stories about princes and princesses, and quests and bravery in the face of extraordinary odds, have remained an essential part of our culture’s foundation, shared by parents and children for many generations— they have also inspired countless artists along the way. A renowned fantasy artist and illustrator of children’s literature, Ruth Sanderson has created imagery for more than 75 picture books, many of which bring such classic tales to life. Norman Rockwell Museum will present Dancing Princesses: The Picture Book Art of Ruth Sanderson from December 7, 2013 through March 9, 2014.

This special holiday installation, part of the Museum’s “Distinguished Illustrator Series,” will feature more than 60 original illustrations for classic and original stories, including Sanderson’s personal favorite—The Twelve Dancing Princesses (originally published in 1997 by Little, Brown, and Co, Crocodile Books). Now in the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum, the artist’s paintings and studies for the fairy tale will be accompanied by unique costumes that she commissioned specifically for her work. The exhibition will also feature original paintings for other princess-inspired books, including The Sleeping Beauty; Cinderella; The Golden Mare, The Firebird, and The Magic Ring; The Snow Princess, The Crystal Mountain; and The Enchanted Wood, an original story.

“The archetypal characters and the symbolism that one finds in fairy tales contain truths that are universal and can be as meaningful for children today as they have been for centuries past,” notes Sanderson. “ In The Twelve Dancing Princesses, the three magical woods that the princesses pass through are symbolic to me of their rite of passage into adulthood.”

“We are delighted to present the beautiful, jewel-like work of Ruth Sanderson,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “This look at her fairy tale art should enchant us all through the holidays and coming months. We are also grateful for the generous donation of her original art to our growing illustration art collection.”

“Inspired by the art of Golden Age illustrators Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, and Norman Rockwell, Ruth Sanderson’s romantic, realist paintings capture the sense of wonder inherent in the classic tales that she so enjoys bringing to life,” adds Norman Rockwell Museum Deputy Director/Chief Curator Stephanie Plunkett, who helped organize the exhibition.

About Ruth Sanderson
Born in the small town of Monson, Massachusetts, Ruth Sanderson (b. 1951) has been a professional illustrator since 1975, with over 80 published children’s books, in addition to illustrated book covers, fantasy art, collector’s plates, animation concept art, and product design. She teaches writing and illustrating for children in a summer graduate program at Hollins University, in Roanoke, VA, and is a longtime member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Growing up in Monson, Sanderson enjoyed playing in the woods and an abandoned theme park, where her imagination came to life (her original fairytale, The Enchanted Wood is, in great part, a homage to her love of the Monson woods). She also enjoyed visiting the library and reading such books as the Black Stallion series; one of her most treasured possessions was a copy of Grimm’s Fairytales, which she read over and over.

Sanderson’s love for stories fed into another passion— drawing and painting. She remembers drawing images of horses since she was very young. At the age of 13, the artist’s parents bought her a horse of her own, which she enjoyed trail riding during her teenage years. It was at this time she also decided to pursue a career in art.

After spending a year at a liberal arts college where the art courses were all abstract, she transferred to the Paier School of Art in Connecticut, taking a combination of traditional drawing and painting courses and commercial art. After graduation, she began a career as an illustrator, creating art for textbooks and covers, including the Black Stallion and Nancy Drew series, which she enjoyed as a child.

Sanderson’s “big break” was the assignment to illustrate an edition of Heidi with one hundred full color paintings, created in oils. She went on to illustrate The Secret Garden, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, published in 1990 after a year and a half of work.

Other fantasy books followed, including The Enchanted Wood; The Crystal Mountain; Cinderella; The Golden Mare, The Firebird, and the Magic Ring; and Goldilocks.

Learn more about Ruth Sanderson’s work at her website: www.ruthsanderson.com

Exhibition-Related Programs and Events


Dancing Princesses: The Fairy Tale Art of Ruth Sanderson

Saturday, December 7, 4 to 7 p.m.

Comments at 4:30 p.m. by Ruth Sanderson

Celebrate the wonder of fairy tales at the opening of this magical exhibition featuring stunning picture book illustration art by Ruth Sanderson. This special holiday installation will explore the process and inspirations for The Twelve Dancing Princesses, complete with original paintings and studies, photographic references, and the opulent costumes that Sanderson designed and commissioned for inclusion in her images. Members free; guests free with Museum admission.


Picture Books!

December 23 through 28 (closed on the 25th), 1 to 4 p.m.

Invent your own story lines and design characters, plots, and settings inspired by the picture book art on display during this creative series of drop-in art workshops for children of all ages. Share your children’s book with family and friends! Free with Museum admission, members free.



Saturday, January 11, 1 to 4 p.m.

Be inspired by dance and enjoy Dancing Princesses and the art of Ruth Sanderson. Talented dancers from Berkshire Ballroom will demonstrate and teach basic ballroom steps, and dancer Hattie McLean will offer an interactive look at the history of dance. Exhibition tours, readings and a book signing with Ruth Sanderson, and art making for all. Free with Museum admission, members free.


The Art of Fantasy with illustrator Ruth Sanderson

Saturday, February 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Enjoy this inspired look at mood, composition, and narrative in oil painting with noted picture book artist Ruth Sanderson. Examine the portrayal of a single figure in a simple but elegant composition. Bring figure and landscape photos for reference, and/or include some of Ms. Sanderson’s own costumed figures and backgrounds. Starting with a thumbnail drawing, students will create a finished illustration in oils. $35, $25 members.  Pre-register at rsvp@nrm.org, or call 413.931.2221


Fact or Fiction? Every Picture Tells a Story

February 17 through 21, 1 to 5 p.m.

Explore how the art of Norman Rockwell, Ruth Sanderson, and Wendell Minor tell stories in pictures, and create artworks in mixed media that express your own ideas in these special drop-in workshops for all ages. Free with museum admission, members free.


Distinguished Illustrator Series

Norman Rockwell Museum’s Distinguished Illustrator Series honors the unique collaborations of outstanding visual communicators today. Presented by the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the nation’s first research institute devoted to the art of illustration, the Distinguished Illustrator Series reflects the impact and evolution of Norman Rockwell’s beloved profession, exploring a diverse and ever-changing field.

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