The Flying Pig and Other Winged Creatures
In 1946, having been recommended by his friend Mark Rothko, Milton Avery made this set of gouache paintings as illustrations for a children’s book written by another friend, the playwright and novelist H. R. Hays. Publication of the book was cancelled after costs for printing color reproductions proved too expensive in the postwar years. The paintings remained with Avery’s family after his death in 1965, but in 1994, with the approval of his widow, Sally Michel Avery, his daughter March Avery Cavanaugh invited her childhood friend Karla Kuskin, a prolific and well-known children’s author, to write a new story to coincide with the original narrative sequence of Avery’s images. Featuring scenes with a boy, a flying pink pig, a giant caterpillar, a flying fish, a singing cat, howling wolves, and a reindeer, the resulting book, entitled Paul, is the story of a boy whose parents are too busy to listen to him sing his song. He runs away in search of his magic grandmother, along the way encountering an assortment of fantastic creatures before finally finding her.
Created with the exuberant colors and simplified forms of his mature paintings, these illustrations are the least known aspect of Avery’s art. They represent a storytelling mode not seen in any other works by Avery and are the only instance in which he produced a series of pictures to accompany a text. The illustrations, along with Karla Kuskin’s story, are scheduled for republication in 2005 under a new title, The Flying Pig and Other Winged Creatures.
Acquisition of these illustrations in 2001 by the Library’s Spencer Collection was made possible as the partial gift of Sally Michel Avery, courtesy Milton Avery Trust and Knoedler & Co., New York.