Last May my fiance and I visited the Hats Off to Dr. Seuss Exhibition, which will conclude its west coast leg this September.
I was enSeussiastic (sorry, had to) about the Beverly Hills exhibit, which featured paintings, sculptures, and sketches from Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel’s well-known works (The Cat in The Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc).
Captions provided a fascinating glimpse into Geisel’s creative process. For example, he was meticulous about color selection, and intentionally chose saturated reds and blues for The Cat in the Hat in order to keep the attention of his young readers.
Also on display was a selection of Geisel’s private art and a whimsical collection of hats, each of which lived in a secret studio closet during Geisel’s lifetime.
In celebration of the 75th anniversary of his second book, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Dr. Seuss’s widow opened the Estate’s vault and allowed a selection of “midnight paintings” and hats to tour the country.
Visitors were prohibited from photographing the hats, but the selection was as fanciful and varied as Geisel’s illustrations, themselves. I was particularly intrigued by an account of how Geisel and a Random House editor worked late into the night revising a children’s book. Stumped, Geisel announced that it was time for a “thinking cap”, and dashed off to his secret stash. The editor indulged Geisel, but seemed bemused at the sight of two grown men in silly hats stumbling over a single word in a fifty-word manuscript.
While the hats were off limits, we were encouraged to take pictures of the rest of the exhibit. This was my favorite among Geisel’s secret paintings, entitled Cat With Green Lights.
When I asked why it was signed “Stroogo Von M”, the curator told me that Geisel would present the painting as someone else’s work in an effort to gauge his friends’ honest reactions. I wonder if he conceived the idea while wearing one of his many thinking hats.