Jan Brett: Stories Near and Far

July 23, 2022–December 31, 2022

Jan Brett: Stories Near and Far is a comprehensive overview of artist/illustrator Jan Brett’s work, showcasing her rich illustrated narratives and beloved characters and highlighting her impressive publishing career which spans more than four decades. The exhibition has been organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and will be on view at the Albany Institute of History & Art July 23—December 31, 2022.

With over forty-four million books in print, Jan Brett is one of the nation’s foremost and most widely read author/illustrators for children. This lively exhibition explores the breadth of Brett’s art and the travel experiences that have inspired her many children’s books and characters. Her global perspective, which is central to her work, is inspired by her appreciation for world cultures and her many travel experiences, which have taken her from the Arctic Circle to South America, and to countries in Europe, Africa, Asia, and beyond.

Favorite stories, from Gingerbread Friends, The Umbrella, and Honey...Honey...Lion! to her most recent published book, The Nutcracker, are represented by more than 120 original artworks from 22 books, as well as a selection of reference materials and objects she has collected from her international travels.

Brett’s art invites readers to linger over intricately detailed images, which are filled with expressive animal and human subjects, natural and fantastical wonders, striking architectural designs, and uniquely ornate borders that inspire engagement, discovery, and a life-long love of reading. Audiences, adults and children alike, will get lost in the colors and details and may even start to imagine the sweet scents of cinnamon and ginger while exploring her famous bakery scenes. Artworks from Cozy; Daisy Comes Home; Gingerbread Baby; Hedgie Blasts Off!; The Three Snow Bears; The Animals’ Santa; The Mermaid; Cinders, A Chicken Cinderella; On Noah’s Ark; The Turnip; and The Snowy Nap are among the full-color originals from the artist’s books on view in the exhibition.

Jan Brett

"Artistic license is your passport to draw what you want."
--Jan Brett

Jan Brett has been deeply interested in the art of illustration since her youth. Recollecting her childhood she said, “I remember the special quiet of rainy days when I felt that I could enter the pages of my beautiful picture books. Now I try to recreate that feeling of believing that the imaginary place I’m drawing really exists.” She went on to pursue her goal of becoming a professional artist through her studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and by spending time with great works of art in galleries of many museums.Brett began her illustration career in the 1970s, and initially, her art appeared in books written by various authors. The publication of Fritz and the Beautiful Horses in 1981 marked a milestone in her career-- it was the first book that Brett both wrote and illustrated, and since then, her art has primarily appeared in picturebooks of her own authorship. Though she lives near her childhood home in her native state of Massachusetts, Brett focuses on tales that take inspiration from the richness and diversity of world cultures. The artist and her husband, Joseph Hearne, a bassist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, travel extensively to research and experience first-hand the cultures, topography, and wildlife reflected in her art. An animal lover, Brett also breeds and shows her large flock of fancy chickens, which have won many awards at regional and national fairs. Her Bantams and other breeds also appear frequently in her art, along with her beloved hedgehogs, moles, rabbits, badgers, bears, owls, and brown mice.

Brett’s books have been chosen as “Best Books of the Year” by The New Yorker, Parents, Redbook, industry trade groups, and more. They are often #1 New York Times bestsellers, USA Today bestsellers and top the Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.

Exhibition Support

Leading support has been provided by Alan P. Goldberg, William M. Harris and Holly A. Katz, Charles M. Liddle, III, and Daniel Wulff. Major support has been provided by Douglas L. Cohn, D.V.M.

Season exhibition and program support is provided by Phoebe Powell Bender, Mr. and Mrs. George R. Hearst III, Charles M. Liddle III, Lois and David Swawite, and the Carl E. Touhey Foundation, Inc.

Program and exhibition support is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Promotional support has been provided in part by a grant from The Michele L. Vennard Hospitality Grant Program of the Albany County Convention and Visitors' Bureau Fund, a fund of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region.