Celebrating James Thurber at CMA

Columbus Museum of Art Announces exhibition celebrating James Thurber’s 125th anniversary

(Columbus, OH) – Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) is proud to announce A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber, on view August 24, 2019 through March 15, 2020, in celebration of the 125th anniversary of James Thurber’s birth. A Mile and a Half of Lines showcases the drawings of James Thurber, Columbus’ native son and one of America’s best-known twentieth-century writers. The exhibition is organized by the Columbus Museum of Art with Curator-At-Large Carole Genshaft and Guest Curator Michael J. Rosen and is part of the Year of Thurber, a year-long, community-wide celebration honoring Thurber’s 125th birthday and the 35th anniversary of Thurber House.

Thurber’s drawings not only changed the nature of the cartoon, but also introduced the unstudied line in fine art. His process of drawing illustrations spontaneously with child-like abandon was an innovation to his field. For him, the drawing often came first before the captions, and frequently displayed Thurber’s mastery of humor, which is also evident in his parodies, spoofs, farces, self-deprecating narratives, hilarious caricatures, exaggerated anecdotes, and mock-journalism. When you combine his comedic gifts of visual and literary art, Thurber’s canon is without parallel.

“With one-line captions and drawings of few lines, James Thurber changed the character of cartooning in America,” said Guest Curator Michael Rosen. “It’s easily argued that he was the first to introduce a spontaneous, unstudied line into America art. This is the first exhibition to assemble inimitable, pre-intentional drawings by the humorist most mentioned with Mark Twain in the canon of humor.”

A Mile and a Half of Lines will include Thurber’s work for The New Yorker, his illustrations for his own and others’ books, ad campaigns, and children’s illustrations. Sections of the exhibition will include topical drawings depicting: Signs of the Times (Prohibition, the Great Depression, and the Lost Generation); The Bestiary in Me (the animal kingdom); and Columbustown (including OSU football). An art activity in the exhibition will provide visitors with an opportunity to write their own captions for some of Thurber’s untitled drawings. 

The exhibition also will include examples of Thurber’s later work. In 1901, at age seven, Thurber’s left eye was pieced by an arrow in a game of William Tell and replaced with a glass eye. Over time, his right eye clouded and grew dim. In response, Thurber’s drawings grew larger and his lines turned from pencil or ink to chalk. He tried various tools to provide him the chance to draw– to little avail. His last illustration in The New Yorker appeared November 1, 1947. The cover of Time magazine, July 9, 1951, printed the last of his drawings. At his death in 1967, Thurber had spent more than two decades blind. 

Michael J. Rosen serves as guest curator of A Mile and a Half of Lines and has also written a book that accompanies the exhibition. Rosen is a writer, illustrator, and an editor who has collaborated with the Thurber Estate and written about the works of James Thurber for almost forty years. He was the founding literary director of the Thurber House and has edited six volumes of Thurber’s work. 

Related Program:
Celebrating Local at CMA
Saturday, September 21, 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Location: Columbus Museum of Art
Enjoy all things local at this day-long celebration highlighting our current exhibitions: In a New Light: Alice Schille and the American Watercolor Movement; Greater Columbus 2019; and A Mile and a Half of Lines: The Art of James Thurber. Gallery conversations, artist demonstrations, curator talks, artmaking, and more will pay tribute to the vibrant art community of Columbus. This program is free with general admission, which is $18 for adults; $9 for seniors (60+), students (18+) and children 4 and older; free for members and children 3 and younger.

 About the Columbus Museum of Art: Columbus Museum of Art, located at 480 East Broad Street, creates great experiences with great art for everyone. The Greater Columbus Arts Council, Nationwide Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, and the Richard G. and Mary Jo Seyler; Richard H. and Ann Shafer Fund II; Fund for Columbus; and Paul-Henri Bourguignon and Erika Bourguignon Fund for Visual Arts funds of The Columbus Foundation provide ongoing support. CMA, Schokko Café and the Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. General admission is $18 for adults; $9 for seniors (60+), students (18+) and children 4 and older; free for members and children 3 and younger; $5 on Thursday evenings (5-9p.m.). A separate admission fee for special exhibitions may apply. General admission is free for all on Sundays. CMA charges a flat rate of $5 for parking in the Museum’s East Gay lot. CMA members park for free. For additional information, call 614.221.6801, visit www.columbusmuseum.org, or find us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram @columbusmuseum.

Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art, located at 632 North Park Street, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. General admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors; free for students and children. Parking is available at meters, lots and garages throughout the Short North. For additional information, call 614.221.6801, visit www.pizzuit.columbusmuseum.org, or find us on Facebook and Instagram @pizzuticollection.

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Media Contact: Melissa Ferguson, 614.629.0306, melissa.ferguson@cmaohio.org