A mural from a private Manhattan home was recently cut from the wall and transported to the Rosenbach Museum and Library on Delancey street in Philadelphia – all 1200 pounds of it. The mural happened to have been the work of Maurice Sendak, and the museum happens to have organized the largest collection of author’s works and ephemera.
Dr. Rosenbach and his brother were prominent dealers in rare books, manuscripts and fine art. Their efforts provided a precursor and catalyst to some of the great rare book collections of today: the Folger, the Huntington, etc. Their personal collection was converted into a museum in 1954 and played an early and special role in Sendak’s appreciation of the arts.
Sendak held a great appreciation for the Rosenbach, its contents and its project. To him, it now serves as a the curator of his memories and all that is good and fascinating in the world. With the news of its accession, he remarked on the mural, “It represents a time on a personal level when I was secure and young and happy. And I didn’t think about dying . . . about my friends dying.”
As the joyful detritus of his life is carefully collected and organized, however, Sendak casually remarks on his proximity to his own demise. He said, “I think I’m getting out just in time. Watching the news, everything seems to be in disorder. Everybody seems to be unhappy. We’ve lost the knack of living in the world with the sensation of safety.”
Perhaps the Rosenbach will maintain a little piece of vitality through its collections and their intention and ability to deliver them to others.