Thursday, March 09, 2023

Ian Falconer 1959 - 2023


Ian Falconer, best known for his "Olivia" series of kids books, his New Yorker magazine covers and designing opera sets with David Hockney, died on Tuesday in Norwalk, CT. Kidney failure was the cause, according to his agent. He was 63. 



"Born in 1959 in Ridgefield, Conn., Falconer studied art history at New York University before focusing on painting at the Parsons School of Design and the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.

"After incubating his talent as a theater designer with David Hockney, assisting the renowned artist with sets and costumes for Los Angeles Opera productions in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Falconer went on to create set and/or costume designs for top-tier companies around the world, including Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, New York City Ballet and The Royal Opera.

"Of his set design for The Atlantic Theater's production of The Santaland Diaries, The New York Times' theater critic Ben Brantley, wrote, 'The cartoon cutout set by Ian Falconer looks totally chic in its monochromatic grayness.'

"'Their relationship blossomed into a lifelong friendship and an artistic collaboration lasting many years,' said stage and screenwriter Jeff Whitty. The Tony Award-winning book author of the musical Avenue Q was a close friend of Falconer."


The Washington Post:

"Mr. Falconer began his professional life in the 1980s as a protege of David Hockney, the British painter who established himself in Southern California and emerged as a seminal figure of pop and modern art. Mr. Falconer was in his late 30s when he tried his hand at picture books and made his literary debut in 2000 with the publication of a slim volume titled, simply, 'Olivia.'

"From the start, Olivia was a force to be reckoned with. The cover featured her name in towering block letters, with Mr. Falconer’s tucked inside on the title page in a comparatively retiring font. The opening words introduced the 6-year-old pig as being 'good at lots of things,' chiefly 'wearing people out.'

"Olivia wore out an untold number of grown-ups over the years — but in a good way; 'she even wears herself out,' the story notes — who read and reread the Olivia books to her legions of young fans. She was often described as a porcine heiress to the legacy of the equally precocious Eloise, the 1960s creation of author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight.

"'Unlike Eloise, Olivia doesn’t stride through the Plaza Hotel like a pint-size Patton,' New York Times book critic Dwight Garner wrote. 'She lives instead with her family in a tidy Manhattan apartment. But Olivia resembles Eloise in both her fits of pique and her embryonic sense of chic. … She’s part Babe, part Liza Minnelli, hear her pipsqueak roar. Among her favorite things: high heels, Degas, accessories, Maria Callas.'

"Rendered partly in charcoal in a style that Mr. Falconer said he aimed to be 'clean and spare,' the first Olivia book received a Caldecott Honor, the runner-up to the Caldecott Medal for distinguished illustration in children’s literature"

The New York Times:

"In a 2012 interview with The Times, Mr. Falconer was asked what makes a good children’s book.

"'If I had to say one thing, it would be to not underestimate your audience,' he said. 'Children will figure things out; it’s what they do best — sorting out the world.'"



Françoise Mouly: Remembering Ian Falconer, the New Yorker Artist and Author of the “Olivia” Books


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