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The Unknown Art of Dr. Seuss

Theodor Seuss Geisel was more than just Dr. Seuss, a visionary writer and illustrator of children’s books loved by generations of readers. His work contained powerful messages that were skillfully woven into fun rhymes and kooky characters (there’s a whole Wikipedia page dedicated to the political messages behind Dr. Seuss’s books). Just like any human, Dr. Seuss had nights when he couldn’t sleep. And like any writer, he experienced writer’s block. So what did the artist do during these period? He produced beautiful, dreamy artwork! 

“Cat Carnival in West Venice” by Theodor Seuss Geisel 

The lucky citizens of Vancouver are getting a treat; a Toronto gallery is hosting an exhibit unveiling never before seen artwork by the late Dr. Seuss. There are “more than 40 reproductions spanning 50 years of Geisel’s unknown artistry” writes Toronto Star. Seuss apparently made the artwork when he couldn’t sleep or had writers block and kept them stashed away at his estate to maintain some privacy. He told his wife she could release the work, which he called “Midnight Paintings”, after he passed away. He died in 1991.

“Self-Portrait of the Artist Worrying About His Next Book” by Theodor Seuss Geisel 

Jeff Schuffman, the spokesperson for The Art of Dr. Seuss, told Straight a little about Seuss’s collection: “There’s this unique kind of Seussian style, in terms of a common thread, throughout all his work. But the paintings are surreal. They’re colourful; they’re loose. They’re expressive and very artistic…It’s quite an eye-opening experience to learn more about someone who we’ve all grown up with and know so much about through his literary expression…”

Schuffman also commented on the difference between Dr. Seuss’s daytime work versus his nighttime work. “At nighttime, it was just his own unbridled creativity he was able to put out there on canvas, on a piece of paper, on board. Which, I think, definitely benefited what he was doing during his day job. I think one inspired the other,” he stated.

 

If you look at the art in The Cat Behind the Hat, a collection of Seuss’s surrealist “Midnight Paintings”, it is clear that the revolutionary cartoonist made the work. But there’s a stark difference between the more simple, kid-friendly illustrations from books like The Cat in the Hat. They are much more detailed and dark, but they maintain an element of joy. “Disguised as a potpourri of nonsense, these works combined his vivid imagination with a thoughtful understanding of human nature. Truths are whispered from these playful paintings…” writes The Art Of Dr. Seuss website.  

 

From self-portraits to “Unorthodox Taxidermy” (Seuss’s “Flaming Herring” and “Carbonic Walrus” are featured above), the “Midnight Collection” is an incredible display of Seuss’s talent.

 

All images courtesy of DrSeussArt.com.