Norton Museum of Art

West Palm Beach, Florida



Dick and Jane: Illustrations of an American Education


Robert Childress, "Fun for Three," 1962

Illustrations from "Fun Wherever We Are."


The classic illustrated book series "Dick and Jane" is the subject of the exhibition Dick and Jane: Illustrations of an American Education at the Norton Museum of Art from November 15, 1997 to January 25, 1998. The exhibition is organized by Lakeview Museum, Peoria, Illinois.

Included in the exhibition are original editors' first drafts of storylines, coupled with dozens of never-before-seen working illustrations and sketches, vintage photographs of the children used as models and many of the original iilustrations published in the "Dick and Jane" series.

The exhibition also includes revealing examples of changes in the series over the years.The "Dick and Jane" books reflected ongoing shifts in America's evolving ideas about gender, race, modern technology and fashion from the 1930s through the 1960s. Significant changes in the series clearly reflected historical moments in this country, such as the growth of the feminist movement and the changing role of women. Expanded versions which included African-American, Asian-American and other minorities highlighted the Civil Rights movement and a growing awareness of America's multi-cultural populations.

"Dick and Jane" was a standard school text for the over 85 million people who learned to read from the 1930s through the 1960s. The "Dick and Jane" stories featured the characters Mother, Father, Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot, and their happy lives in an untroubled world. Their surroundings reflected prevailing middle-class values of the period, with everyone clean and happy, living a good life in safe environments behind white picket fences. As first stories read by many American children, "Dick and Jane" presented a strangely homogeneous world where night never came, knees never got scraped, parents never yelled and everything was fun. Once television hit the American landscape, shows like Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best and The Donna Reed Show continued to promote these mythologized scenarios of the ideal, well-behaved American family.

In their earliest incarnations, "Dick and Jane" books must have read like a welcome fantasy for school children who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. And for many baby boomers who escaped the suffering of their parents and were born into a middle-class postwar paradise, these optimistic stories may have felt close to their own everyday suburban experiences. The now- familiar images and texts in this exhibition paint a telling picture of mid-century America, with all of the persistent struggles to define, pursue, and live out what many considered to be the "American Dream".

Dick and Jane: Illustrations of an American Education is accompanied by the book Growing Up With Dick and Jane. The book includes full-color illustrations, vintage photographs, Dick and Jane paper-dolls and a commemorative "Dick and Jane" book, and is available at the Norton Museum of Art Museum Store.

Dick and Jane: Illustrations of an American Education is accompanied by several events including:

Sunday, November 23 Family Tour 3:00 PM Go on a decent-led family tour of the "Dick and Jane" exhibition. Free with paid museum admission.

Sunday, December 14 TRlart 2:00 PM "Three Days with Dick and Jane" Kids can illustrate their very own Dick and Jane story! Draw pictures illustrating the storyline in real illustration cells. TRlart is recommended for school-aged children accompanied by an adult, and is free with paid museum admission.

Sunday, December 28 Artisan Workshop 2:00 PM Artist Pat Crowley will discuss the ins and outs of being an illustrator. Free with paid museum admission.

Sunday, January 18 Music for Muses 2:00 PM The Fabulons wiil perform "Doe Wop 50s." Free with paid museum admission.


Norton Museum of Art general information:

Hours: Tuesday - Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m,.Sunday 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.

BEGINNING NOVEMBER 17, 1997, THE MUSEUM WILL BE OPEN MONDAYS 10 a.m. -5 p.m. and the cafe "TASTE by the Breakers" will be open 7 days a week. Call 832-5196 for cafe hours.


Adults: $5

Students 14-21: $2

Children 13 and under: Free


Text and images courtesy of Norton Museum of Art.

Search for more articles and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists for biographical information on historic artists.

This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information.

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