Dr. Seuss’s Long-Lost Final Book Is about Art History
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Six years ago, Audrey Geisel discovered a box in her home in La Jolla, California. It belonged to her late husband, Theodore, who was known affectionately by the world as his nom de plume, Dr. Seuss. Following his death in 1991, she had donated the bulk of his sketches, manuscripts, and other ephemera to the University of California, San Diego.
But Audrey had missed a box two decades earlier. There wasn’t a fox with this particular box, but there were two unfinished manuscripts for children’s stories. The first one, which was nearly completed, became the 2015 book What Pet Should I Get?; the other titled Horse Museum, will be published this September by Random House. The book was illustrated by Australian author Andrew Joyner, based on Dr. Seuss’s text, sketches, and notes. It arrives 9 months after Audrey passed away at age 97.
It’s likely that this is the last book from the mind of Ted Geisel. Because he spent a lifetime as an artist—from his early years as a political cartoonist, to his celebrated children’s books, to his secret nighttime painting practice—it’s only fitting that this story is an art history lesson for young readers.
Publisher Cathy Goldsmith, who worked with Geisel on art direction for his last six books, said she was initially surprised to discover the manuscript was about a horse who guides children on a tour through an imaginary art museum, which only exhibits famous equine-based artworks. “Ted didn’t draw horses very often. He drew cats, he drew dogs, he drew cows,” she said. “[But] when you think about it, it makes perfect sense for this project.”
Horse Museum opens with the heady question: “Art. What’s it all about?” Geisel envisioned using horses as an entryway to introduce artistic interpretation; specific art movements; and the fundamental qualities of art, such as lines, colors, and materials. Horses, after all, have been a universal subject, spanning prehistoric cave art, antiquity, indigenous tapestry, European painting, early photography, and modern art.
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