Marcia Brown, New York State College for Teachers Class of 1940, is an internationally renowned illustrator and author of children's books. She is a three-time winner of the Caldecott Medal, the American Library Association's highest award for excellence in children’s'picture-book illustrations, for three of her books: Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper (1954); Once a Mouse (1961); and Shadow (1982), and six more of her books are Caldecott Honor Books.
Brown has produced over 30 children's books during her career and many titles have been reprinted in other languages, including Afrikaans, German, Japanese, Spanish and Xhosa-Bantu. Critics have marveled at Brown’s use of spare texts, strong images and the vitality reflected in the use of a variety of media ranging from her trademark woodcuts to pen and ink and gouache. Her characters -- lively, humorous and full of magic and enchantment -- include handsome princes, sly cats, evil sorcerers, flying elephants and snow queens. Ms Brown currently resides in California and continues working today.
Marcia Joan Brown was born on July 13, 1918, in Rochester, New York, one of three daughters of the Reverend Clarence Edward and Adelaide Elizabeth (Zimber) Brown. The family lived in many small towns in upstate New York including Cooperstown and Kingston as her father accepted new ministries. Raised in a family that supported artistic expression, she decided at an early age to become an artist. In a videotaped interview in 1996, Brown reminisced about the books and artworks in her local public library in Cooperstown, New York, that as a child awakened her sense of wonder and joy in beautiful things. As an artistically inclined and sensitive child, she constantly read, and especially loved folklore and fantasy, such as the Andrew Lang fairy books, Howard Pyle's The Wonder Clock (1887) and Otto of the Silver Hand (1888) as well as the striking German books with movable parts in brilliant colors of pink, yellow, emerald green, and cobalt blue.
In the fall of 1936, Brown enrolled in the New York State College for Teachers (NYSCT), the University at Albany's predecessor, where she majored in English and Drama and received her B.A. in 1940. While in college her literary and artistic abilities blossomed, as she contributed to the college's literary and humor magazines. Marcia Brown's career as a published illustrator began in 1937 when she joined the art staff of the State Lion, the NYSCT student humor magazine. The pages of that magazine contain many illustrations by Brown which give a strong indication of her future abilities as an illustrator. Brown also served as a member of the State College Echo art staff, art editor of the State Lion and co-editor-in-chief of The Statesman. Her humorous sketches of mice, lions and other figures can be seen in University publications from that era. Brown especially recalls studying under the legendary Agnes Futterer of Albany's Department of Theatre, Harold Thompson of the English Department and the summers of 1938 and 1939 under Judson Smith at the Woodstock School of Painting.
After graduating from NYSCT, Brown taught high school in Cornwall, New York and, in 1943, Brown began working in the New York Public Library's Central Children's Room. She would spend the next six years gaining valuable experience in storytelling and was exposed to the Library's extensive international and historical collections. Brown published her first four books while working in the Library's Central Children's Room. In 1946, Brown published her first book The Little Carousel, which chronicles the adventures of a lonely little boy who hears the sound of a merry-go-round near his home and features Brown's vivid description of a bustling neighborhood in Greenwich Village, where she lived upon first arriving in New York City. The Little Carousel, which she wrote and illustrated, was followed by over thirty more books during her career.
Her next book, Stone Soup (1947), now considered a classic, established her reputation. The first of many folk tales she would retell and illustrate in her career, it is the story of stingy peasants outwitted by three hungry soldiers. Cinderella or the Little Glass Slipper (1954), the text of which Brown had translated from the French of Charles Perrault, garnered Brown her first Caldecott Medal and was laeter awarded the Caldecott Medal for Once a Mouse (1961) and Shadow (1982).
While best known as an illustrator, Ms. Brown has also written and adapted many stories, the latter often based on folk and fairy tales from around the world. Her picture books have been widely praised for not only their illustrations, but also for Ms. Brown's talent for reproducing the "storytelling" quality of oral traditional literature. This particularly evident in Stone Soup and Dick Whittington and His Cat, both Caldecott Honor Books in 1948 and 1951, respectively.
In later years, she has devoted her time to studying Chinese calligraphy and painting, with extended stays at Zhejiang Academy and the Center for Fine Arts at Hangzhou, People's Republic of China. Her many interests encompass reading, classical music, and travel. Her dedication to children and as an anbassdor for children’s literture
Through the years, Marcia Brown’s generosity has greatly enriched UAlbany's Libraries. Her own papers and artistic works are prominently housed in our Special Collections and comprise a marvelous record of an artist at work. By studying her papers one can trace the development of a fully-imagined, beautifully illustrated book from the beginning of an idea. Ms. Brown has also given us many East Asian art books which serve to help introduce this particular world to UAlbany's students and to researchers across the state. We've had of thousands of visitors who have enjoyed these special collections and we have loaned them out for exhibits at libraries and museums nationally and internationally.
As a result of her work in children's illustrations Brown has become well known for her woodcut prints. Her woodcut prints have been exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, the Peridot Gallery, the Hacker Gallery, the Library of Congress, the Carnegie Institute, and the Philadelphia Print Club. Her prints and art works are in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, the Mazza Gallery, Findlay, Ohio, the deGrummond Collection, the University of Southern Mississippi, the Kerland Collection of the University of Minnesota, the Brandywine River Musuem and in many private collections. Brown's Chinese brush paintings were exhibited at the Hammond Museum, North Salem, New York, the Zhejiang Academy, the Asiatic Society in New York City, and the Stamford and Wilton Libraries in Connecticut.
Marcia Brown has received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the SUNY Albany Alumni Association (1969), the Distinguished Service to Children's Literature Award from the University of Southern Mississippi(1972), The Regina Medal from the Catholic Library Association for service to children's literature (1977), has been the United States nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award for illustration in 1966 and 1975, and has been a life member of the International Institute for Arts and Letters since 1961. Brown is a member of the Authors Guild, the Print Council of America, the Art Students League, the Oriental Brush Artists Guild, and the Sumi-e Society of America.
M. E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York
1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, New York 12222
Updated March 15, 2011