Weston gallery with Jerry Pinkney exhibition installed and reading circle in middle of room.

Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney

Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney

February 5-June 26, 2022

Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney will feature more than 80 beautiful illustrations and working drawings from nine children’s books spanning 1979 to the present by Jerry Pinkney, one of America’s most renowned children’s book illustrators. These illustrations express powerful messages from the history of the Civil Rights movement in America, honor Black heritage, and inspire with tales of courage and aspiration. They also reflect Pinkney’s compassionate nature and his desire to be a “strong role model for my family and other African Americans.”

Jerry Pinkney passed away on October 20, 2021, three months before the opening of this exhibition. We hope you will join us in celebrating his legacy and enjoying his multifaceted talents as a master watercolorist, draftsman, and storyteller.

"It still amazes me how much the projects I have illustrated have given back to me in terms of personal and artistic satisfaction. They have given me the opportunity to use my imagination, to draw, to paint, to travel through the voices of the characters in the stories, and, above all else, to inspire children."

These illustrations encompass issues of social justice, resilience and tenacity in the face of adversity.  They convey powerful messages related to the history of the Civil Rights movement in America as well as personal tales of courage and aspiration.  Pinkney’s transcendent art reflects his own compassionate nature, and his desire to be “a strong role model for my family and other African Americans.”  The range of works reveal his multifaceted talents as a master watercolorist, draftsman, and story teller.

Jerry Pinkney was one of America’s most admired children’s book illustrators. He won the Caldecott Medal and five Caldecott Honors, five Coretta Scott King Awards, the Coretta Scott King–Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, the Society of Illustrators’ Original Art Show Lifetime Achievement Award, and many other prizes and honors. Until his death in 2021, Jerry Pinkney lived with his wife, author Gloria Jean Pinkney, in Westchester County, New York.   

Pinkney’s work was previously featured in a 1998 group show at the Montclair Art Museum entitled Shared Stories: Exploring Cultural Diversity. Pinkney also delivered the 29th Annual Julia Norton Babson Memorial Lecture in 2015 on the topic “The Illustrator’s Eye, Real and Imagined.”

Experience the stories

Enjoy actors and educators reading stories illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.

Cheryl Jones reading Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman.


Jerry Pinkney pausing to smile for the camera while signing a book.
Jerry Pinkney with one of his illustrations.

In His Own Words...

"I grew up in a small house in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was a middle child of six. I started drawing as far back as I can remember, at the age of four or five. My brothers drew, and I guess in a way I was mimicking them. I found I enjoyed the act of putting marks on paper. It gave me a way of creating my own space and quiet time, as well as a way of expressing myself.

"I attended an all-black elementary school, and I gained a strong sense of self and an appreciation of my own culture there. But Roosevelt Junior High was integrated. There I had many friends, both white and black, at a time when there was little mixing socially in school. There the spark for my curiosity about people was lit. You can see this interest and fascination with people of different cultures throughout my work.

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"My formal art training started at Dobbins Vocational High School, and upon graduation I received a scholarship to the Philadelphia Museum School of Art (now University of the Arts). My major was advertising and design. The most exciting classes for me were drawing, painting, and printmaking. It is no wonder I turned to illustrating and designing books. For me the book represents the ultimate in graphics: first, as a designer, considering space, page size, number of pages, and type size; then, as an illustrator, dealing with the aesthetics of line, color, and form.

"There were three books that somehow magically came into my possession in the early sixties: The Wind in the Willows, illustrated by Arthur Rackham; The Wonder Clock, illustrated by Howard Pyle; and Rain Makes Applesauce, illustrated by Marvin Bileck. You can see those influences in my art today. Later, my work was greatly influenced by such African American artists as Charles White, Romare Bearden, and Jacob Lawrence.

"From the very beginning of my career in illustrating books, research has been important. I do as much as possible on a given subject, so that I live the experience and have a vision of the people and places. To capture a sense of realism for characters in my work, I use models that resemble the people I want to portray. My wife, Gloria Jean (also an author), and I keep a closetful of old clothes to dress up the models, and I have the models act out the story. Photos are taken to aid me in better understanding body language and facial expressions. Once I have that photo in front of me I have freedom, because the more you know, the more you can be inventive."

Tenacity & Resilience: The Art of Jerry Pinkney is sponsored by Bank of America, the Lyn and Glenn Reiter Endowed Special Exhibition Fund, Carol and Terry Wall/The Vance Wall Foundation, Jeanine Downie and Michael Heningburg Jr., Patti and Jimmy Elliott, Tracy Higgins and James Leitner, Don Katz and Leslie Larson, Robert L. Tortoriello, and Margo and Frank Walter, N.J.S.C.A., the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and Museum members.


Through the crowd and from sea to shining sea..., 2019. pp. 32-33. Watercolor, collage, graphite on watercolor paper. 14 1/4 x 21 13/16 in. Collection of the artist. Paul Jacobs Photograph. (From the book 'A Place to Land: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation')

Cover art, 2001 Watercolor and graphite on watercolor paper, 15 1/8 x 21 5/8 in. Collection of the artist. Paul Jacobs Photograph. (From the book 'Goin’ Someplace Special')