Curlee, Lynn 1947-
CURLEE, Lynn 1947-
ADDRESSES: Home and office—P.O. Box 699, Jamesport, NY 11947.
CAREER: Exhibiting gallery artist, 1973—; freelance writer, 1991—.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED; FOR CHILDREN
Ships of the Air, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Explorations, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.
Rushmore, Scholastic (New York, NY), 1999.
Liberty, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2000.
The Brooklyn Bridge, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2001.
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.
Capital, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2003.
The Parthenon, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2004.
(Illustrator) Dennis Haseley, Horses with Wings, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
SIDELIGHTS: Lynn Curlee is best known for writing and illustrating stunning picture books starring famous landmarks of the American landscape. His first two books, however, celebrated the wonders of early human flight. Horses with Wings, an account of a balloon escape from Paris during the Franco-Prussian War written by Dennis Haseley, was illustrated by Curlee with acrylic paintings hailed by Booklist contributor Kay Weisman as "stunning." Ships of the Air, Curlee's second book but the first that he both wrote and illustrated, continues with the flight motif. It is a brief history of balloon and dirigible crafts. A Kirkus Reviews critic found that the book "delights as well as . . . informs." Susan P. Bloom, writing in the Horn Book magazine, noted that Ships of the Air provides an account of the role hot-air balloons played in Arctic explorations of the 1920s, and perhaps whetted the author's appetite for tales of Arctic explorers. His next book, Into the Ice: The Story of Arctic Exploration, supplies "a readable and quite beautiful treatment of Arctic exploration," according to Carolyn Phelan in Booklist. Here, Curlee tells the story of human explorers who were compelled to travel to the frozen lands of the far North, and of the people who called that land home. "Curlee's stark acrylic paintings seem particularly sympathetic to his subject matter," remarked Bloom. Relying on a restricted palette of blues, grays, and white, the artist "creates the forbidding and formidable landscape of the North."
Rushmore, a tribute to the making of this famous memorial to United States presidents in South Dakota, is Curlee's first book on significant American architectural sites. John Gutzon de la Mothe Borglum, a sculptor of monumental ego and ambition, undertook the project in the 1920s to transform the Black Hills of South Dakota into a tourist attraction and homage to American presidents Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson, and Theodore Roosevelt. During the nearly two decades of production, workers on the site had to climb the equivalent of a forty-story building in order to get to work each day and the artist's gray and blue acrylic paintings ably provide readers with a sense of the project's scale, reviewers noted. "Curlee conveys the sensitivity in the faces of the giant chiseled sculpture while simultaneously demonstrating a sense of scale," remarked a contributor to Publishers Weekly. The text of the book covers the engineering as well as the artistic feat involved in creating the monument, and describes controversies over who ought to be depicted. Booklist reviewer Stephanie Zvirin complained that Curlee's paintings of Rushmore sacrifice feeling for accuracy, in their predominantly blue and gray overtones, however: "they make the monument seem cold and remote, rather than a warm, forceful testament to vision, hard work, and national pride." On the other hand, Mary M. Burns, writing in Horn Book, found Curlee's renderings of the monument to be more than realistic, "rather, they are an exultant view into the nature of art and, yes, patriotism."
Like Rushmore, Liberty, Curlee's next book, showcases a famous American monument through a scientific explanation of the mechanics of bringing the original vision to reality, anecdotes of its creation, and affecting illustrations, which one critic, Alicia Eames, writing in School Library Journal, described as "richly hued, stylized acrylic paintings, which are both compellingly dramatic and strikingly static." The Statue of Liberty was the brainchild of French intellectuals and artists, and was brought to fruition with the timely aid of American newspaper magnate Pulitzer, in Curlee's historical overview. Here again, as in the earlier book, an unabashed patriotism infuses the artist's renderings of his subject. "Stunning, stylized portraits of the lady heighten Curlee's lucid, appreciative text," remarked a contributor to the Horn Book magazine. Likewise, a contributor to Publishers Weekly dubbed Liberty, "a reverent, absorbing homage to the world-renowned symbol of American freedom."
Curlee's next American landmark was the Brooklyn Bridge, which upon its completion in 1883 was by far the tallest human-made structure in its surroundings, and was the longest bridge in the world at the time. In his Brooklyn Bridge, Curlee details the engineering feats that went into the bridge's construction, but wraps it in the human drama of the Roebling family: John A., who conceived the vast structure but died just as it was begun, his son Washington, who took over the project until ill health forced him into seclusion, and Washington's wife, Emily, who oversaw the day-today operation of construction after her husband fell ill. As in his earlier tributes to the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, Brooklyn Bridge features stunning illustrations that work on the emotions of the viewer. "The sweeping cityscape oil paintings of the bridge during sunset fireworks and glowing in the moonlight illustrate its majesty and pageantry," a contributor to Publishers Weekly attested.
The Brooklyn Bridge was once considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world, and so it is only fitting that Curlee's next book was Seven Wonders of the World. The book provides a brief look at what the seven wonders of the ancient world, as deemed by the Greek poet Antipater of Sidon, would probably look like, as all but the Great Pyramid at Giza have long since disappeared. "The expanse of his ambitious subject does not allow the author to delve into the kinds of details allowed by his single-subject volumes, but he certainly whets readers' appetites," concluded a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Drawing upon contemporary accounts and modern archeology, Curlee creates a vision of what each might have looked like in its day, as well as an account of its destruction. Although Booklist contributor Ilene Cooper noted some flaws in the historical account, "there's no denying that this book is both fascinating and strongly executed," she concluded.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 1993, Kay Weisman, review of Horses with Wings, p. 630-631; September 1, 1996; April, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of Into the Ice, p. 1316; March 1, 1999, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Rushmore, p. 1204; April 15, 2001, Randy Meyer, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 1548; December 1, 2001, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 658; January 1, 2002, Ilene Cooper, review of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, p. 850; January 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of Capital, p. 880.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October, 1996, pp. 53-55.
Childhood Education, Jeanie Burnett, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 171.
Horn Book, November-December, 1996, p. 757; May-June, 1998, Susan P. Bloom, review of Into the Ice, p. 357; March, 1999, Mary M. Burns, review of Rushmore, p. 221; May, 2000, review of Liberty, p. 330; July, 2001, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 470.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 1996, review of Ships of the Air, p. 821; January 1, 2002, review of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, p. 43; December 1, 2002, review of Capital, p. 1766.
New York Times, December 7, 1998, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "Adventuring from a Child's Imagination to the Arctic," review of Into the Ice.
New York Times Book Review, May 20, 2001, Sam Swope, "Oz on the Hudson," review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 30.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 1993, pp. 132-137; February 15, 1999, review of Rushmore, p. 107; May 29, 2000, review of Liberty, p. 83; May 14, 2001, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 82; December 24, 2001, review of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, p. 64; November 25, 2002, review of Capital, p. 65.
School Library Journal, December, 1993, pp. 88-89; May, 1998, Patricia Manning, review of Into the Ice, p. 152; March, 1999, Rosie Peasley, review of Rushmore, p. 191; May, 2000, Alicia Eames, review of Liberty, p. 180; May, 2001, Susan Lissim, review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 162; March, 2002, Kathleen Baxter, "Castles in the Air: Inspire Readers with Personal Stories of Creative Vision," review of Brooklyn Bridge, p. 49; September, 2002, Mary Ann Carcish, review of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, p. 242.*